These are greetings commonly used during Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Roughly translated, they mean happy or blessed Ramadan. Since most of our Friedenshaus students are Muslim, we feel especially conscious about this celebration right now.
I remember having to teach a World Religions course a number of years ago and reading up on this celebration. During this month, Muslims are required to fulfill one of the five pillars of their faith. Fasting (Sawm) during the day (from sunrise to sunset) is the most common feature of this celebration, but Ramadan is more than that. In addition to refraining from eating and drinking, Muslims are also supposed to avoid smoking, swearing, lying, arguing and sexual intimacy between sunrise and sunset. Much like the Christian celebration of Lent, Ramadan is also a time to reflect on one’s faith. It’s not supposed to be a time of dour denial and suffering. The fasting time is seen as something joyous and the breaking of the fast each evening is celebrated together, often with others in a local mosque.
When we asked our students if we should change our class schedules at all during this month (other than not offering drinks and snacks during breaks), they said, “no”. We should continue our classes as usual. The students we spoke with acknowledged that the first few days are tough, but their bodies quickly acclimatize to the new routines. We will also need to get used to no snacks during breaks and be respectful about where and when we eat our lunch between morning and afternoon classes. We aren’t quite willing to give up our lunch for Ramadan.
Despite the reassurance not to change our schedule, we had very low attendance at our sewing circle yesterday. Only Miryam, an 18 year old daughter of our students, made her way to church Monday night. She and Marla chatted a bit about fasting and the Christian celebration of Lent. Miryam understands Ramadan to be an important aspect of her faith, a celebration required of all Muslims in order to please Allah. Nonetheless, Miryam acknowledged that for a young woman still attending high school full-time, the physical demands are quite a challenge. It takes at least a week for the body to get used to this new routine.
Earlier in the day, Greg and Marla were chatting about how we at Friedenshaus can be a support for our Muslim friends during this month. Can we be a pastoral presence, listening to their learnings and challenges? How do we accompany our Muslim neighbours during this spiritual journey? Is it perhaps an opportunity for us to do our own spiritual reflection about our own relationship to God?
German Word of the Week: “der Ventilator” (the fan). We’ve had a bit of a heat wave here in Germany, so the ladies of the sewing circle were discussing how they stayed cool. Miryam was speaking English with Marla and was asking what a fan was in German. Our pastor, Birgit (who hadn’t been listening to the conversation), responded with “ein Anhänger”. I was a little confused, because I thought an Anhänger was a trailer, pulled behind a car. Then I realized she was talking about a sports fan(atic); someone who cheers on their favourite team. Speaking of fans, we invited some friends over to watch the German Bundesliga Cup final game on Saturday evening. We realized, once they arrived, that they weren’t really “Anhänger” or even interested in the game. The sound was turned down and we enjoyed a nice evening of conversation instead. In the end, the game wasn’t that important. So, to make a short story even longer, a “Ventilator” is the fan that cools you off on hot summer nights! (By the way, Dortmund beat Frankfurt 2-1)