Sunday, October 22, 2006
Today is the last day of my second Ramadan in Senegal. Last year I only fasted during Yom Kippur but this time around I got about 6 days in besides Yom Kippur. The idea behind Ramadan if I’m not mistaken is to atone for sins, be extra giving to those who are in need and to experience life as it is for those people who are truly in need. This is done through fasting during daylight hours for 30 days. Since Ramadan is a month in the Muslim calendar (a lunar calendar), it rotates throughout the year. This means that Ramadan is about 10 days earlier each year. This year it has fallen during both the harvest and the most miserable (hot and humid) month of the year. Villagers are fasting while they do the hardest work of the year at the hottest time of the year and I can’t help but think that these are the people most other Muslims think of when they give up food and water for the month to live closer to poverty. I can almost here the explanation that a Muslim-American mother might give her son for the sacrifices they make – “Just think about the Muslims in Africa who don’t have enough food to eat.” Yet, those Africans who don’t have enough money to eat much besides a bit of plain rice normally, are themselves sacrificing. Who do they think about when they try to make their lives closer to poverty for the month? And if they don’t really see themselves normally as impoverished, who really are the poor? From the villages I have been to I would say that the people are aware of their lack of material possessions and money, but they tend to have enough to get by and more importantly, everyone has family and that is what is really important. I haven’t asked anyone, but I would guess that the villagers imagine someone with no family, an orphan, when they think about the truly poor.