Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friday Prayer's and Ramadan

One day on a Friday early in our time on Rue Felix Faure, I had an appointment to meet a new acquaintance who had arrived in Dakar around the same time we did in August. She lived not to far so we scheduled it for 1:30.  I went downstairs, walked through the passage way out to the street and discovered I could not leave. The entire street and available sidewalks and doorways were filled with men praying. Along with that all cars and taxis stopped in their tracks and empty as those who were in them, were now somewhere on the street as well.  I was totally unprepared for this. Yes -  it threw me for a loop since I'd no understanding of what was occurring. I ran back up into the apartment and called the person and explained I would be 'delayed'.   

Since that day in September I learned there are 2 mosques in my neighborhood and on Friday the call to prayer is heard.  This Mosque takes up a whole block between my street and Rue Carnot.

For Muslims the Friday prayer is a congregational prayer and they go to the mosques which overflow to many of the surrounding streets including mine. While I had heard the calls the first few weeks in the apartment it never dawned on me what was happening outside. 

Over time when I started teaching English on Friday's I learned that I had to leave a half an hour early (by 1:00) to get around the populous at the very end of my street while I wait for the bus.

And  oh what a sight to behold  - all these men prescribed by a series of actions over 10-15 minutes involved with their praying in unison - sitting, standing, bending and kneeling.  Here I quickly snapped a shot while I was waiting.

Here is what the street looks like just after prayers are over - I managed to get this shot on the bus - since at this point it stopped at a most opportune spot!.

One of the things I had always wished for was a chance to see what it is like on Friday from an apartment balcony above.  My own "prayers" were answered by a DWG member named Leslie who told me she had a balcony and her street while it doesn't get blocked like mine it would still give me a great perspective.  She had told me she lived in Plateau as did I and I was invited to come to her apartment for a view before our planned departure. Months had passed when she first made the offer.  So finally our scheduled date came on a Friday after returning from Casamance. And since teaching was now concluded this worked out perfectly.  

Upon giving me the walking directions to her place we both realized (after nearly a year) that she lived only one street over from me. We met for the first time and both agreed it was a shame we did not connect sooner.  As it was, I was grateful for the opportunity and  the timing of this Friday also landed on the day Ramadan began. Here is what I saw....

People walking towards the mosque and outlying streets and sidewalks
Some men in place already at the front door of  Leslie's apartment

Looking left

Looking right

Prayers are over and people are dispersing

Father with son licking ice cream

And then it was oh so incredible memorable moment


From - HowStuffWorks website

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, Ramadan begins and ends at a different time each year. The way the lunar calendar works is that the beginning of each month begins with the sighting of the new moon. The lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar used in much of the Western world. 

The start of Ramadan each year is based on a combination of sightings of the moon and astronomical calculations.  The end of Ramadan is determined in a similar way.

The Meaning of Ramadan

For Muslims, Ramadan is a month of blessing that includes prayer, fasting and charity. The meaning of Ramadan goes back many centuries, to about 610 A.D. It was at this time, during the ninth month of the lunar calendar, that Muslims believe God, or Allah, revealed the first verses of the Qu'ran, the holy book of Islam.
According to Islam, a caravan trader named Mohammed was walking in the desert near Mecca. This occurred in what is now Saudi Arabia. One night a voice called to him from the sky. It was the angel, Gabriel, who told Mohammed he had been chosen to receive the word of Allah. In the days after, Mohammed began speaking the verses that would be transcribed as the Qu'ran.
At many mosques, during Ramadan, verses from the Qu'ran are recited each night. The prayers are known as tarawih. By the end of Ramadan, the complete scripture has been recited. Ramadan is a time when Muslims can connect with the teachings of the Qu'ran.

How is Ramadan Celebrated?

During Ramadan, Muslims practice sawm, or fasting. Of course, no one is required to fast for an entire month. The practice of fasting during Ramadan means that Muslims may not eat or drink anything including water while the sun is shining. Fasting is one of the five pillars or duties of Islam. As with most other religious practices in Islam, Muslims participate in the fast from the age of 12.
One of the most important aspects of the Ramadan fast is called niyyah. Niyyah literally means "intention." Muslims must not simply or accidentally abstain from food; they must achieve the requirement of niyyah. To achieve this requirement, a Muslim must "intend in [his] heart that [the fast] is meant to be a worship for Allah alone." So, if someone fasts for political or dietary reasons, he would not achieve niyyah. In fact, according to scripture, "Whoever does not make niyyah before dawn, would not have fasted." The determination to fast is equal in importance to the fast itself.
In much of the Muslim world, restaurants are closed during the daylight hours of Ramadan. Families wake up early, before the sun rises, and eat a meal called sohour. After the sun sets, the fast is broken with a meal called iftar. Iftar often begins with eating dates and sweet drinks to give fasting Muslims a quick energy boost, and it is a rich meal. It can include any type of food, but the dessert almost always includes konafa or qattayef. Konafa is a cake made of wheat, sugar, honey, raisins and nuts. Qatayef is a similar cake, but it is smaller and is folded to encase the nuts and raisins. In between the two meals, the night-time iftar and the pre-dawn sohour, Muslims can eat freely.
Fasting is so important to Muslims for a number of reasons. First, when you are not paying attention to your mortal needs such as food, you may be able to become more in tune with God and your spiritual side. Also, the fast serves to remind Muslims of the suffering of the poor. This idea reinforces the importance of charity during Ramadan.

Fasting gives Muslims an opportunity to practice self-control and cleanse the body and mind. Many cultures and religions use fasting for this purpose. During Ramadan, fasting helps Muslims with their spiritual devotion as well as in developing a feeling of kinship with other Muslims.

As the history goes, Ramadan is the month in which Allah contacted the prophet, Mohammed, to give him the verses of the holy book, or Qu'ran. As such, praying during Ramadan is especially important. Muslims say nightly prayers whether it is Ramadan or not, but the taraweeh, or Ramadan nightly prayer, carries additional weight.

According to scripture, "Whoever observes night prayer in Ramadan as an expression of his faith and to seek reward from Allah, his previous sins will be blotted out." Thus, the Ramadan nightly prayer, after a day of fasting, serves the purpose of eradicating the sins that have been previously committed. In this way, the nightly prayer is an important element of the rituals of Ramadan.

At the end of Ramadan and before the breaking of the fast, Muslims say takbeer. The takbeer is a statement indicating there is nothing in the world that is bigger or greater than Allah. Takbeer is always said when a Muslim completes an important task, as in the completion of the fast of Ramadan.
Translated, the takbeer exclaims, "Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest. There is no deity worthy of worship but Allah, and Allah is greatest. Allah is the Greatest and all praise is due to Allah." It is recommended that men say the takbeer out loud and women say it silently. Takbeer is a sign that the festivities of Eid Al-Fitr have begun. It is a joyful statement of faith and accomplishment.