And for this, I thank my neighbours.
For the last week, just after the sun has set, we have had the doorbell ring, and the lovely Muslim woman from next door is standing there, having broken her fast with her family, with a plateful of mouth wateringly good food.
But it’s not the bringing of food that has inspired me, but instead the other side of a faith often ill perceived in press, in which peaceful celebration and sharing is common place. Religion and faith, while I do not pronounce my own, has always fascinated me, and my greatest hope is that my children grow up understanding and respecting different faiths, without predujice. There is an extreme edge to every religion throughout the world.
For Muslims, the month of Ramadan feels very different to other times of the year, as the daily routine is changed quite dramatically. All Muslims who are physically mature and healthy and for whom it is not unsafe, fast during the daylight hours. Physically, this means that from the very start of dawn until the sun has set, people abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, chewing and sexual relations. Rather than an exercise in deprivation, the idea is that a person is engaged in an act of worship and a way to discipline and improve the self. As well as the physical element of fasting, the spiritual element means people must make a great effort to avoid unpleasant behaviour such as lying, back-biting and cheating, while making an extra effort to be kind and charitable, to fight against the ego, to perform extra acts of worship and to appreciate what we have and what others do not have.
In the evenings, many people go to the mosque to perform extra prayers in congregation, called Tarawih prayers. Every night during these prayers, one thirtieth of the Qur’an is recited, so that by the end of the month, the entire Qur’an has been read. People wish each other ‘ Ramadan Kareem ’ or ‘ Ramadan Mubarak’, a successful, happy and blessed month.
Our Neighbours have chosen to kindly include us in their nightly routine, while not forcing it upon us. It does not matter to them our colour or religion. They recognise us as people, and family, and during this last week, we have found out more about them than the previous year. It’s such a touching thing, which has left me wondering how I can repay such kindness, and improve how I work and live as well.
It has indeed, left me feeling rather inspired and positive.