Ramadan is a holy month where Muslim abstain from eating and drinking from early dawn to sunset, while replenishing spiritually. However, the month entails many other acts of worship, one being giving charity to the ones in need. Giving charity or zakat ( in Arabic) is a key component of acts of worship, it keeps one centered in this life and it increases your modesty. In Islam, a smile is considered charity which allows even the poor to practice this charitable act.
Muslims all over the world are especially generous during the month of Ramadan. In the west, many Muslim either donate money towards charity facilities that they deem fond of. Others, give out their service by volunteering their times and efforts in shelters or giving out iftar (the break of fast) in local mosques. In Egypt, however, people make charity very personal. People collect the most popular items in an Egyptian cuisine and give out to people they know are in need.
In the grocery stores you have an abundance of people trying to bulk on the essentials such as rice, pasta, sugar, flour, lentils and much more and giving out to family members, neighbors, people that perform daily labor services such as the trash collector, bus driver, housekeepers and others. Although giving charity to facilities and giving out iftar in mosques are other methods that Egyptian engage during the month of Ramadan. The most popular method of charity is very personal and is the act of knowing exactly where the charity is benefiting.
Another aspect that I found interesting in Egypt is that everyone is so excited to give whatever they can towards charity. There is an assurance that whatever effort is exhorted towards giving out, God will reward and give tenfold. People also never forget the acts of kindness done towards them. It is not unusual to hear supplications for good rewards in the name of the one who gives.
Ramadan is a month where people in general try to practice the act of good character. Today, I met a Christian Egyptian who told me that she loved Ramadan because people are simply happy. She said it all, people who hear about the sacrifice of fasting without food and water usually cannot fathom the happiness and joy that Muslim have for Ramadan.
I used to roll my eyes upon hearing my friends telling stories of Ramadan in their home countries. Part of my attitude was due to ignorance, not knowing what Ramadan was like in a Muslim country. The other was triggered by jealously upon hearing stories about family gatherings and traditions that I was not able to create with my non Muslim family.
This is my second Ramadan in Egypt and I must say that my friends were right, celebrating this month in a Muslim country is very different than in the United States. However, there are both cons and pros being in these two countries during the holy month.
Pros of Ramadan in Egypt;
- The whole country evolves around this month. People are able to go to work a little later and/or come home early to break their fast.
- The streets are lighten with Ramadan decorations.
- After breaking the fast, the streets are filled with excitement and movement.
- Eating many traditional foods and sweets
- People are more prosperous towards each other. This month is also a great month for giving charity. Therefore, people make a great effort to feeding the poor, giving money to beggars and donate unwanted stuff.
- There is less chaos during the hours of fasting.
- Family/friends visiting each other to break the fast together.
- Three days off to celebrate the end of Ramadan
Cons of Ramadan in Egypt:
- The daily routines get thrown out of the window. People stay up in the late hours at night and wake up super late.
- The heat is beyond unbearable.
- People tend to eat a lot and unhealthy during this month defeating the purpose of eliminating excess consumption and building empathy for those who do not have food to eat on a daily basis.
- There is a stigma for eating in public for the people that exempt from fasting, for example, if you are a pregnant woman, breastfeeding mother, sick, on the menstruation cycle or even a Christian it is very hard to eat in public without judgment.
- As a woman, you are not able to assist the Friday prayer and the extra prayer at the mosque
Pros of Ramadan in United States:
- Routine, the fact that it is Ramadan does not change the daily duties and responsibilities that need to be preformed. Although, the country does not change to support the Muslims during this month, actually can have great benefits, such as being organized on what you need to do towards your Islamic practices throughout the day and how one is going to accomplish the goals one sets for himself during this month.
- Getting invited to friend’s house and enjoying a different culture and traditions while breaking the fast.
- Going to the mosque and praying the extra prayer as a woman.
- More changes to demonstrate Islam in a positive away and break the misconceptions seen in the media.
- No judgment if a Muslim is walking down the street holding a cup of coffee.
Cons of Ramadan in the United States:
- No understanding from your job if you all the sudden are less productive and tired at work.
- Breaking the fast during break time which sometimes consist of a 30 minute break, where we have to eat, drink and pray.
- Life doesn’t stop in this month so if one is not organized, one can loose many opportunities for extra good deeds, charity and prayers.
- No payed holiday for celebrating the end of Ramadan unless one uses his own vacation or personal time.
- Not hearing the call for prayer and enjoying the Quran being recited in the streets.
Disclaimer:These are my personal experiences in both of the countries during Ramadan. It isn’t by any means a whole representation each of these countries.
P.S: I would love to hear what Ramadan is like where you live. Comment down bellow, where you are currently living and what are your Ramadan traditions.