Do Trust and Don’t Trust

Okay, so the norms in one’s life differs depending on where you live in the world.  Some of your own cultural norms you will never be aware of, because they are just that – normal (well, normal to you and your culture) – until you live inside and amongst another culture.  It is then, that you learn what is normal to you is not necessarily what is normal to others.  Some cultural norms you may appreciate in your new cultural and others….well…they may drive you absolutely crazy for a while, and then you learn to giggle about them.  Please note:  This entry is not to offend or belittle anyone in Jordan…they are simply a list of abnorms (is that a word?!) that myself and my group of expat friends have learned to appreciate as well as those that we giggle about – as, yes, we have lived here long enough to reach that point!

Don’t Trust….

  • Signs that read Open 24/7 –  it just isn’t true.
  • The person on the side of the street you asked for directions – an Arab never says he doesn’t know.
  • Sale Pricetags – Today’s ‘Sale’ price is yesterday’s actual price.
  • The electrician, plumber, handyman – you have to stand over him and watch to make sure he does what you are paying him to do.
  • The car mechanic – you have to watch him to ensure he isn’t charging you for things he didn’t fix.
  • The physician – if you have a cough, you will certainly go home with a prescription for antibiotics.
  • The live-in maid – never trust her – even though she should be the most trusted person you hire – I repeat, never trust her!
  • The police officer at the roundabouts – they are often texting on their cell phones.
  • The title ‘Supermarket’ – there is nothing super about it!
  • Your weekly water supply – you may or may not receive your weekly water if there has been heavy rains or it is a holiday.
  • The government official behind the desk whom you just waited in line for 2 hours to see, who tells you to come back tomorrow with 3 additional required documents –  you will return tomorrow, wait another 2 hours in line, see the same guy who will now tell you that you need a 4th document and he will swear to you that he told you about it yesterday – knowing fully that he didn’t!
  • Smiling in public – not a chance, Jordanians are proud of their public ‘mad face’.
  • Public bathrooms – never clean, never have toilet paper, never have soap, sometimes have water, sometimes they are just a hole in the ground, sometimes they are locked and inaccessible!
  • Your guests to arrive on time – for anything!  Your party starts at 6:00, guests will arrive around 7:30 – 8:00.  –I will be honest, as a mother of 3 who is always late, I don’t mind this when I am the guest 😉
  • Appointment is at 10:00am – wait in line, so does everyone elses!
  • It’s 10:00pm, your kids are sleeping, you are in your pajama’s watching a movie, and it’s time to relax for the night – Wrong…the whole family decided to drop by for an unannounced visit for dinner, with their 6 kids under the age of 10!

Okay, okay, seriously don’t be upset – you know it’s true, smile – and besides I am writing all for fun.  I am sure that those Jordanians who have lived in the USA could write a great list of American cultural norms they experienced (please do by commenting on this entry, I am hopeful you do!) In all seriousness, there are so many wonderful people here and wonderful traditions that people do everyday without realizing it because they are normal to them and within their culture.  These are some of the cultural norms that I find wonderful and appreciate dearly:

Do Trust…..

  • Anyone who finds themselves in need, will get more than help from family and friends.  Muslims are taught that when someone is need, that we help for the sake of God/Allah and we will be rewarded for our helping, sacrificing and own suffering so that another human can be more comfortable.  This help can be car rides to and from the doctor appointments for weeks, preparing and delivering food for days or weeks, stopping by to visit and ensure their needs are met, visiting and caring for the sick in the hospital and/or at home, running errands/shopping/fixing the car/taking care of other family members/etc so the physically needy can relax and heal.
  • If a family member is in financial need, the family member who is better off will assist without hesitation or expectation of return.  This is also part of Islam and is deeply rooted in the Jordanian culture.
  • When someone dies, not only the family mourns, but also the community mourns.  When someone passes, the family sets up a tent or opens a home for a movement and constant flow of mourners.  The visiting mourners will come for 3 days (sometimes more), they are welcome at all hours, and are fed at certain times of the day.  Those who come to mourn are the obvious family and close friends, but will also be distant relatives, friends of relatives, friends of colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, anyone with any connection to the deceased will come (imagine all your Facebook friends and all the friends of friends…that is who is of the mourners).  Also, the entire neighborhood is quiet, without celebrations for the first 3-5 days after a passing of a neighbor…I have witnessed weddings being canceled because the elderly neighborhood passed.
  • Respect of elders. Respecting your elders starts at a toddler age.  When entering a home or room with your family, everyone including the toddlers should greet each other with handshakes and kisses on the cheeks or hands (unless the person does not shake the hand or kiss those of opposite sex).  When someone enters a room full of people, the younger children/people stand up and give their chair to the older person (the person could be only a few days older, or could be generations older..but the young gives up his chair for the older).
  • Respect of privacy.  Islamically, men and women are not to mingle unless they are blood relatives or are married (essentially, without getting into all the specifics).  This is to be respected by both the man and the woman.  When it comes to respecting this belief, there is a lot of respect of privacy in the culture.  For example, a man will never enter the home or a room where there is only women…this is a cultural norm that this gives her security and safety.  For example, when anyone knocks on my door, I answer through the closed door, I never have to open the door, and it is totally normal (in fact it would be strange for me to open the door to a man who I don’t know).  If we have an electrician come to the home and my husband is at work…my husband calls the guard to come with the electrician so they can enter the home together and the guard ensures our home is respected and the women and children are safe.  It is not that there is a lot of crime against women, because there is not…but it ensure our safety and privacy.  I appreciate this.
  • Maintaining a family reputation that is good and respectable is important. This cultural norms keeps children, teenagers, and adults from misbehaving for the fear of ruining their family reputation.  This leads to a better society.  If the teenagers are not caring and cause trouble, lets say fight and hospitalize another teenager…this ruins not only the family reputation but also causes crime in the community…so the problem child family (meaning the respected and tribe leaders) will meet with the other family (ie tribe leaders) to work things out.  Working things out depends on the problem or crime that arose…it could take one meeting or weeks of meetings.  It is a communal/tribal effort that is known by all other family members…trust me the teenagers learn their lessons and others will keep in line as fear to cause such problems for everyone.

The beauty of Jordan is the family bonds and the sense of community.  The cultural norms are not to foster independence – not saying independence is a bad thing, common I am American after all – but there is something beautiful about all having the same ideals, same cultural norms that include caring for and taking care of one another.  Depending on where you go in Jordan, depends on the strengths of these beliefs, but no matter where you go, these norms are there.

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The Muslim Story of Christmas

The Muslim story of Christmas

By  Hesham A. Hassaballa

She was alone, as she was wont to do, worshiping in the eastern section of the temple. Suddenly, she was startled by a strange presence: a man with whom she was not familiar. “I seek refuge from thee with the Most Gracious,” she said, “(Approach me not) if you are conscious of Him!” He sought to calm her by saying, “I am but a messenger of your Lord, (who says,) `I shall bestow upon thee the gift of a son endowed with purity.’”

This startled her most of all. She replied, in shock: “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me? – for, never have I been an unchaste woman!” The presence replied: “Thus it is; (but) your Lord says, `This is easy for Me; and (thou shalt have a son,) so that We might make him a symbol unto humanity and an act of grace from Us. And it was a thing decreed (by God).”

And so she conceived the child, withdrawing to a far-off place. And when the pangs of childbirth overtook her, she was driven to sit under the trunk of palm tree, and she exclaimed in anguish: “Oh, would that I had died before this, and had become a thing forgotten, utterly forgotten!” Yet, she had the child, and she then came back to her people carrying him, who were clearly shocked.

They exclaimed, “Thou hast indeed done an amazing thing!” They continued: “O Sister of Aaron,” an honorific title for this heretofore pious woman, “Your father was not a wicked man, nor was thy mother an unchaste woman!” She pointed to her newborn child, whereupon they said: “How can we talk to one who (as yet) is a little boy in the cradle?”

The child then said:

Behold, I am a servant of God. He has vouchsafed unto me revelation and made me a prophet, and made me blessed wherever I may be; and He has enjoined upon me prayer and charity as long as I live, and (has endowed me with) piety towards my mother; and He has not made me haughty or bereft of grace. Hence, peace was upon me on the day when I was born, and  (will be upon me) on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life (again)!

This story, that of the birth of Christ, was culled, not from my copy of the Bible, but rather from the nineteenth chapter of the Koran. It is the second mention, in fact, of this story, the first being in the third chapter. This should come as no surprise, really, for Jesus (and his mother) are very prominent in Muslim belief and reverence.

The Koran is full of passages about Jesus and Mary. The Muslim holy book describes Jesus as being “honored in the world and the hereafter, and one of the intimates of God” (3:45). Christ is also “in the ranks of the righteous” (6:85), described as “a word from God which He send down to Mary (and) and a spirit from Him” (4:171). The Koran even says that Jesus Christ “was strengthened with the Holy Spirit” (2:253, 5:110), although classical exegesis notes that “Holy Spirit” means either divine inspiration or the Angel Gabriel. Jesus, in fact, is mentioned more by name in the Koran than the Prophet Muhammad himself.

That’s why it perplexes me to hear some Christians talk about Muslims “not having Jesus.” We have Jesus all over our faith and belief, we just don’t believe he is the son of God or part of a triune deity. Muslims maintain that Christ was a prophet. It is a major difference in belief, to be sure, but it is not something over which Christians and Muslims should have any enmity or animosity.

Yes, some Muslims claim that Christians and Jews are “enemies,” but I pay no heed to such rabble. It is the product of a criminal, twisted mind, and the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not subscribe to such beliefs. And sadly, there are some Christians who say the same about Muslims and Islam: that we are “enemies,” not to be trusted or accepted into the fabric of society, and our faith is “evil.” Such voices, in both communities, must be ignored and marginalized.

No, Muslims may not adorn their houses with lights during this season, but it does not mean that Jesus does not light their hearts with love and reverence. Muslims may not take Christmas Day off as a religious holiday, but that does not mean that Jesus means nothing to them at all. Yes, it may be that the only businesses open on Christmas Day may be the Muslim-owned ones, but that does not mean that Jesus is not near and dear to those business owners’ hearts.

This common love for Jesus – and all the prophets of God – should be the force to bring American Muslims and Christians together. As we all think about Jesus this holiday season, it is my hope and prayer that the forces of hatred and division are no longer paid heed, and Americans of all faiths and creeds come together in peace. I know that it would be what Jesus would want for us; I know that it is what God wants as well.

Jesus in Islam

From time to time, I use the media of my Blog to educate its readers about Islam.  In the light of Christmas, I took the opportunity to enlighted those about the beliefs of Jesus in Islam.  In unusual fashion, I have copied and paste the below post from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_Islam, in order to save time and secure accuracy.

In Islam, Jesus (Arabic: Isa) is considered to be a Messenger of God and the Messiah who was sent to guide the Children of Israel with a new scripture, The Gospel. The belief in Jesus (and all other messengers of God) is required in Islam, and a requirement of being a Muslim. The Qur’an mentions Jesus twenty-five times, more often, by name, than Muhammad. It states that Jesus was born to Mary (Arabic: Maryam) as the result of virginal conception, a miraculous event which occurred by the decree of God (Arabic: Allah). To aid in his ministry to the Jewish people, Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles (such as healing the blind, bringing dead people back to life, etc.), all by the permission of God rather than of his own power. According to the popular opinion and Muslim traditions, Jesus was not crucified but instead, he was raised up by God unto the heavens. This “raising” is understood to mean through bodily ascension.  Muslims believe that Jesus will return to earth near the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat the Antichrist.

Like all prophets in Islam, Jesus is considered to have been a Muslim (i.e., one who submits to the will of God), as he preached that his followers should adopt the “straight path” as commanded by God. Islam rejects the Christian view that Jesus was God incarnate or the son of God, that he was ever crucified or resurrected, or that he ever atoned for the sins of mankind. The Qur’an says that Jesus himself never claimed any of these things, and it furthermore indicates that Jesus will deny having ever claimed divinity at the Last Judgment, and God will vindicate him. The Qur’an emphasizes that Jesus was a mortal human being who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God’s message. Islamic texts forbid the association of partners with God, emphasizing a strict notion of monotheism.

The Qur’anic account of Jesus begins with a prologue, which describes the birth of his mother, Mary, and her service in the Jerusalem temple, while under the care of the prophet and priest Zechariah, who was to be the father of John the Baptist. The Qur’an then goes on to describe the conception of Jesus. Mary, whom the Qur’an states was chosen by God over the women of all the worlds, conceives Jesus while still a virgin.

Annunciation of the birth of Jesus

Mary had withdrawn into the temple of prayer, where she was visited by the angel Gabriel (Arabic: Jibrail) to give the glad tidings of a holy son. The Qur’an states that God sent the message through the angel Gabriel to Mary that God had honored Mary among the women of all nations. The angel also told Mary that she will give birth to a holy son, named Jesus, who will be a great prophet, to whom God will give the Gospel. The angel further told Mary that Jesus will speak in infancy and maturity and will be a companion to the most righteous. When this news was given to Mary, she asked the angel how she can to conceive and have a baby when no man has touched her? The reply of the angel to Mary was, ” “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!”. The Qur’an, therefore, states that Jesus was created from the act of God’s will. The Qur’an compares this miraculous creation of Jesus with the creation of Adam, where God created Adam by His act of will (kun-fa-yakun, meaning “Be and it is”). According to the Qur’an, the same answer was given to the question of Zechariah, when he asked how his wife, Elizabeth, could conceive a baby as she was very old.

Birth of Jesus

Virgin Mary nurtured by a palm tree, as described in the Qur’an.

The Qur’an narrates the virgin birth of Jesus numerous times. The Qur’an states that, Mary was in the midst of the desert in Bayt Lahm (Bethlehem), when the pains of childbirth came upon her, amidst Mary’s agony, God made a small river run under Mary from which she could drink. Furthermore, as she was near a palm tree, Mary was told to shake the trunk of the palm tree so that moist dates would fall down from which she could eat and be nourished. Mary cried in pain and held onto the palm, at which point a voice came from “beneath her”, understood by some to refer to Jesus, who was yet in her womb, which said “Be not grieved; God has provided a rivulet under thee; and shake the trunk of the palm and it shall let ripe dates fall upon thee, ready gathered. And eat and drink and calm thy mind”. That day, Mary gave birth to her son Jesus while she was in the desert.

Forty days later she carried him back to her people. The Qur’an goes onto describe that Mary vowed not to speak to any man on that day, as God was to make Jesus, whom Muslims believe spoke in the cradle, perform his first miracle. The Qur’an goes onto narrate that Mary then brought Jesus to the temple, where immediately she began to be taunted by all the men, excluding Zechariah, who believed in the virgin birth. The Israelites accused Mary of being a loose woman and having touched another man whilst unmarried. In response, Mary pointed to her son, telling them to talk to him. They were angered at this and thought she was mocking them by asking them to speak with an infant. It was then that, God made the infant Jesus speak in the cradle, and he spoke of his prophecy for the first time. He said, which are verses 30-33 in the chapter of Mary in the Qur’an:

“I am a servant of Allah. He will reveal the Book to me and make me a prophet. He blessed me wherever I am. In the rules revealed to me there will be a special attention given to prayers and charity. Allah predestined that I will be kind to my mother and not a tyrant with a bad ending. Peace was on me the day I was born, peace will be on me on the day I will die, and on the day I am raised alive again!”—Qur’an, sura 19 Maryam, ayat 30-33

Mission

According to Islamic texts, Jesus was divinely chosen to preach the message of monotheism and submission to the will of God to the Children of Israel (banī isrā’īl).

Scripture given to Jesus

Muslims believe that God revealed to Jesus a new scripture, the Injīl (English: Gospel), while also declaring the truth of the previous revelations – the Tawrat (English: Torah) and the Zabur (English: Psalms). The Qur’an speaks favorably of the Injīl, which it describes as a scripture that fills the hearts of its followers with meekness and piety. The Qur’an says that the original biblical message has been distorted or corrupted over time from what was revealed to the messengers. In chapter 3, verse 3, and chapter 5, verses 46-47, of the Qur’an, the revelation of the Injil is mentioned:

It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong).—Qur’an, sura 3 (Al-i-Imran) ayah 3.

ISLAM 101

5 Pillars of Islam

Islam has five primary obligations, or pillars of faith, that each Muslim must fulfill in his or her lifetime. These are the 5 Pillars of Islam:

 

1. Shahada = Declaration of Faith.

“There is No god, except Allah/God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah/God”.

So, who is Allah?  – Allah is God.  God is English, when God is translated in Arabic it is Allah.  When the Angel Gabriel revealed the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed, it was recited in Arabic. Therefore the Quran is in Arabic and Allah is God.  Muslims around the world, despite their native language, pray in Arabic and pray to Allah.

When we declare, “There is No god” – we are saying that god (with a small “g”) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of God (big “G”) – wealth, power, etc.

When we declare, “except God” – we are saying God (big “G”) is the source of all Creation and is the One and Only.

When we declare, “Mohammad is the Messenger of God” – we are saying a message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.

 

2. Salah = Prayer.

The obligatory prayers are performed five times a day.  They are a direct link between the Muslim and God. These five prayers contain verses from the Quran, said in Arabic, but personal supplication can be offered in one’s own language.  Prayers are preformed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall.  They put a rhythm in every day and help remind the Muslim of what is important in life.  It is prefered to pray in congregation in a Mosque; however, Muslims can pray anywhere.  Living in a Muslim country, it is beautiful to see bus drivers and policemen praying on the side of a busy road and to see co-workers praying in their offices.

 

3. Zakat = Charity.

One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God.  Therefore, wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The Arabic word Zakat means both ‘purification’ and ‘growth’. Essentially, our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need.  A minimum payment of two and a half percent of one’s capital, is required each year.  Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually and gives preferably in secret.

An example of the Prophet Mohammad teachings is the following regarding giving Charity:  The Prophet said: ‘Charity is a necessity for every Muslim. ‘ He was asked: ‘What if a person has nothing?’ The Prophet replied: ‘He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.’ The Companions asked: ‘What if he is not able to work?’ The Prophet said: ‘He should help poor and needy persons.’ The Companions further asked ‘What if he cannot do even
that?’ The Prophet said ‘He should urge others to do good.’ The Companions said ‘What if he lacks that also?’ The Prophet said ‘He should check himself from
doing evil. That is also charity.’

 

4. Sawm = Fasting.

Every year during the Islamic month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sundown.  During these hours they abstaining from food, drink, smoke, and sexual relations.  Those who have chronic illness, are elderly, children before puberty, are traveling a far distance, and women who are menstruating, pregnant, or nursing are not required to fast.  Fasting is regarded as a method of self purification.  Abstaining from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains sympathy and understanding with those who go hungry.  This month of Ramadan is also a time to read Quran, perform extra prayer, perform good deeds, and grow spiritually.

The completion of Ramadan is marked by the Islamic holiday, Eid al-Fitr, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities around the world.

 

 

5. Hajj = Pilgrimage to Mecca.

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj, is required for those who are physically and financially able.  It is the largest pilgrimage in the world.  Each year, around two million Muslims, from around the world, go to Mecca each year.  Pilgrims wear simple white clothing, which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that they all stand equal before God.

To learn the specifics of Hajj, please visit this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj

The completion of the Hajj pilgrimage is marked by the 3 day Islamic holiday, Eid al-Adha,which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities around the world.

Traditional Engagement – Jordan Style

Living in the Mid-western states of The United States, traditional engagement goes a little like this.: Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, boy and girl date, boy and girl fall in love, boy asks girl to marry him, girl says yes, girl and boy get married.

Living in the Middle Eastern country of Jordan, traditional engagement goes a little like this: Boy graduates high school, boy graduates college, boy has job and income to support a family, boy is at good maturity to get married, boys mother (and father) search for a good girl to marry, boy meets girl at family home, boy and girl talk with others present, boy and girl decide they want to meet again and another meeting is set in the family home to talk more, boy and girl discuss what is important to them about marriage, boy and girl agree to similar interest, attraction, and ask for family blessings, boy’s male relatives go to girl’s male relatives to ask for girl’s hand in marriage, girls family decides boy is a good man for marriage of girl, boy and girl get engaged, boy and girl get married.

In Islam, and typically in Jordan, dating is forbidden.  Dating is forbidden to protect the man and mostly the woman from unintentional or intentional harm.  If you think about it openly, you will remember many times in your life or the lives of others you know who dated.  Most American date many people before finding Mr. or Mrs. Right.  During this time of dating, many men, but especially many women get hurt.  Whether it was intentional or unintentional, the fact is they get harmed through dating.  Harm can be in the form of physical and/or emotional abuse, unintended pregnancy, disease, being used by the other, losing time in an unsuccessful relationship, etc.  The list of possible and probable harm is great and can lead to feelings of mistrust, suspicion, jealousy, anger, hate, rage, failure, etc, etc.  Again, think back (honestly) and you will remember a time when this affected you or someone you know who have dated.

For these reasons and others, Islam prohibits dating in order to preserve purity (virginity) and to protect either male and mostly female from harm.  When dating is prohibited by your religion, how does one get married?  In the West we call this traditional way of marriage, ‘Arranged Marriage’.  That being said, in the United Sates, we have such a poor idea of and often misconceived idea of what an arranged marriage means.  In Jordan, the traditional way to get married is for the boy’s family to search to women of a suitable age, education, beauty, who is brought up in a good family, and whatever other quality they are looking for in a wife.  The girls on other hand, typically wait to hear of a man who may be interested.  So boys family (usually the mother) asks around to their friends and family of any single women who may be a good suit.  The family of the boy and the by himself may meet many different women and their families before finding ‘Mrs. Right’.  And the girl, may meet many boys and their families before finding ‘Mr. Right’.  Once the couple have met each other and decided to be a good marital match, they then talk more and more to get to know each other better; however, this is traditionally supervised/chaperoned talk.  The couple decides they want to get married, family permission is required, and the engagement goes forth.  Once the engagement is complete,traditionally, the couple continue with the chaperoned visitations and conversation.  During this engagement period (whether it be 1 week or 1 year), if either members of the couple decide they do not want to marry this person, the engagement is called off and the search for “Mr. and Mrs. Right” continues.

It is an interesting way of life and it works.  In Jordan, it is not the norm to get divorced.  Part of the low divorce rate is because it is not a social norm, but also because of this lack of dating prior to marriage.  Imagine, that you have never dated, never been in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex prior to marriage.  You have no harm from previous relationships and you have nothing to compare it to either.  Therefore, your relationship is more pure on an emotional and physical level.  May be you did not fall in love with the person prior to marrying them; however, with time they usually fall in love or have a common bond that holds their marriage strong.  In fact, in the dating world, you may have fallen in love with the people prior to marriage and shortly fall out of love because it is a feeling or you are comparing to previous relationships, or have been hurt by previous partners.

I find myself writing this blog, because my sister-in-law has recently become engaged to a man, the traditional way in Islam and in Jordan.  I am reflecting on the traditional way and trying to open the minds of my beloved Western friends and family who have never been exposed to this type of relationship before.  For myself, 3 of the 4 siblings my husband has, have met their wives and now soon to be husband, in this traditional way.  Alhumdillah, each of them are happily married.  I am use to the idea, and contrary to my often Western thinking, I even like the idea.  I thought it would be a good time to not only increase the awareness of how engagement and marriage is done here in Jordan, but also in Islam.  Islam, unfortunately, is often misunderstood.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain the rational behind ‘arranged marriages’ in Islam, and what arranged marriage actually means here in Jordan.

Eid Al-Fitr

Pictures from Eid Al-Fitr!

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Eid Al-Fitr is a 3 day holiday celebrated after the Islamic month of Ramadan.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset.  The month of Ramadan is a lunar month and moves ahead by about 2 weeks each year.  This year Ramadan began August 1st and ended August 30th.  In Jordan, we fasted each day from approximately 4:30 am until 7:20pm – nearly 15 hours.

The Islamic fast includes refraining from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual contact from dawn until sunset.  After the call for Maghrab prayer, at sunset, Muslims will then break their fast with family or friends over a large delicious meal – usually consisting of dates, soups, salads, rice, meat or chicken, a variety of refreshments, followed by desserts made especially during Eid.  During the Month of Ramadan, many Muslims also attend the usual 5 prayers at the Mosque, in addition they attend evening prayers where portions of the Quran are recited each night.  Many Muslims stay up all night to pray and read the Quran (the Islamic Holy Book) – many Muslims read the entire Quran at least once during the month.  Muslims give charity and praticipate in many good deeds during Ramadan as well.  Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others.  It is also a time of cleansing onseself from sin and working towards a more pious life.  The fast is required for all Muslims who have reached the age puberty, except for pregnant women, lactating women, menstruating women, chronically ill, and mentally ill.

Usual celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr begins with a morning prayer at the Mosque.  Everyone is dressed in new or their best clothes, attend the morning prayer, and then visit relatives and friends.  Gifts and money are often given to the children and women.  Each day, of the 3 days festival, is spent visiting family and friends.  In Jordan, the people are off of work during these 3 days of Eid Al-Fitr, so they can fully enjoy their time celebrating with family.

Other Blogs I follow have also written about Ramadan and Eid AlFitr.  Please check out these bloggers perspecitves on the same topic:

http://sojourney.wordpress.com/

http://godfaithpen.com/tag/ramadan/