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In continuation with our series on ‘Fasting in Other Places’ (or ‘Ramadan Unusual’), today two other readers share their experiences of fasting outside Nigeria while…

In continuation with our series on ‘Fasting in Other Places’ (or ‘Ramadan Unusual’), today two other readers share their experiences of fasting outside Nigeria while on studies. Dr. Aminatu Ali AbdulRahman is an Ophthalmologist at National Eye Centre, Kaduna, and was in Bangladesh for a training a couple of years ago; while Ibrahim Gwangwazo is an academic colleague who teaches Chemistry at Kano University of Science and Technology Wudil (Kano State), and was in India for postgraduate studies 2014-2015.

AMINATU ALI ABDULRAHMAN ([email protected]): I spent a year in Dhaka, Bangladesh (Ramadan 1436 to 1437) training as an eye surgeon together with a fellow Nigerian doctor. We lived within the hospital premises. At the end of Sha’aban when the Ramadan crescent was being expected, we kept vigil by the television where a press conference by the Ulama holding in the local Bangla language subsequently announced the sighting of the moon. It was easy to decode their message because they looked exactly like how our own Nigerian Ulama look on such occasions. 

Behaviour: Bangladeshis are patient with each other and generally refer to each other as “brother” and “sister.” They are slow to anger and you hardly see people quarrelling, not to talk of fighting at the drop of a hat (unlike we Nigerians). This was even more evident in Ramadan. Conversely, they are always in a hurry and don’t even have time for proper greeting. A lot of Muslim women who normally leave their hair exposed also wear the head scarf in Ramadan. In fact, that is one of the major signs of Ramadan you see. They are very creative and beautify everywhere with fabrics, flowers and lights. During Ramadan, Eids and national holidays the buildings, streets and roundabouts are a beautiful sight to behold. They also mark the national holidays of other religions despite their overwhelming majority. 

Ibadah: We didn’t get a chance to pray Tarawih in the mosques as we lived on the hospital premises, but I could hear the Qur’anic recitations from nearby mosques. Also, I did not see many people reciting Qur’an in public places like we see here in Nigeria during Ramadan. Children are not encouraged to fast at a young age like here in Nigeria. In fact, many big teenagers and adults also do not fast for no just reason. A friend told me that she started completing the Ramadan fast after getting married; and couldn’t remember how many years’ missed fasting had accrued on her. She could only pray for Allah to overlook, she said. Some of the rickshaw drivers are exempted from fasting due to the difficult nature of their job of cycling passengers around in the hot sun. A common sight is that of a skinny man pedalling a bicycle attached to a rickshaw carrying two to three (sometimes fat) adults! 

Food: These people LOVE sugar and rice (though not in the same dish, obviously). And they are very generous with sweets and food. One of the first things I learnt in Bangladesh is that it is Sunnah to eat sweet foods (they eat dessert after breakfast, lunch and dinner; and share sweets at every opportunity). At Iftar, dates, a myriad of local sweets, fresh fruits, fruit juices, ice cream, chocolates are all eaten once the Adhan is called. Maghrib prayer takes a back seat to a full Iftar meal consisting of many courses. I believe that they must have a sugar fix after fasting for a whole day. They have a local food similar to kosai which is served with cooked ‘dal’ (a type of pulse) and puffed rice (similar to rice krispies) that are eaten obligatorily plus a host of other fried foods. And then of course the ubiquitous bowl of white rice. We didn’t have cooking facilities so the only touch of home was kunun gero and dawa that we made using an electric kettle. What I missed most was not being able to have tuwo da miya for Sahur.  

Mai-Shayi: Still talking about food, Bangladeshis have a lot of ‘mai shayi’ joints. I think it’s a national pastime for both young and old; male and female. And because Bangladesh is more than 90% Muslim, during Ramadan a screen is provided at these ‘mai shayi’ joints for those who are not fasting (Christians, Hindus, Buddhists etc) for privacy while they eat during the day, and I guess to prevent tantalizing the fasting Muslims.  

All in all, living and fasting in a different clime was a good experience which provided a lot of insights, new perspectives and a deeper appreciation of the things we sometimes take for granted. May Allah accept our Ibadah.

IBRAHIM U GWANGWAZO ([email protected]): It was a very nice experience fasting in another place. I left Nigeria for Delhi, India in March 2014, barely two months to Ramadan 1435. India, the second most populous nation in the world with a very large Muslim minority, is four and a half hours ahead of Nigerian time. Fasting in India is sometimes longer than Nigeria’s and the Indian summer is much hotter than that of Nigeria. The temperature sometimes reaches 45 degrees, so one can imagine fasting in such heat, and for a longer time!

During Ramadan with such intense heat, sometimes one has to remain indoors for the whole day in order not to be completely burnt and dehydrated by the sun. I remember in that very year 2014 an intense heat wave hit India in which many people died across the country. And because the story was widely publicised all over the world, we received many phone calls from family back home to hear from us and ascertain it we were alright.

In Noida, the suburb of New Delhi where I lived as I studied for a Masters’ at Sharda University, beginning of Ramadan was very different from home. While in Nigeria it is very easy to know when is the first day of Ramadan because of announcements from the Sultan of Sokoto and our Emirs, in India one had to rely on second-hand information if you didn’t speak the language. And as our mazhabas are different from that of the Indian Muslims, sometimes we see things being done differently. We sometimes started Ramadan a day later than many Muslim countries.

India is home to the second largest number of Muslims in the world, after Indonesia. The population of Muslims in India is more than the total population of Nigeria, yet Indian Muslims are a minority as the country is closely following China as the world’s second most populous. But even though a minority, Indian Muslims have done well for themselves as they are not grovelling in servitude.

But we were very lucky to be invited to Iftar by many hospitable members of the Indian Muslim community where we really enjoyed ourselves. Though used to kunu and kosai in Nigerian Ramadan as our ‘special delicacies’ for breaking the fast, for the nearly two years (and two complete Ramadans) that I was in India, it was only kunun tsamiya that was missing because we discovered India has its own kosai, and we tucked in pleasantly! We mixed and interacted well with our hosts.

Regarding Tarawih, Nigerian and Afghan students combined to start the Ramadan prayers using a small common room in our university hostel, the Mandela International Students’ Hostel (a massive 12-storey building) but we soon realised that, with more than 100 Muslim students from Nigeria alone and many more from other countries, the place was too small. We were finally given a bigger place in the basement of the hostel. Tarawih and Tahajjud became very nice and memorable, and the interaction with other Muslim students was priceless.

Ma sha Allah!


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