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The Fast

Ramadan was in full swing when we moved back earlier this year. At 3am every day, our sleep was assaulted by loudspeakers from a half dozen neighbourhood mosques: “Wake up! Wake up! Breakfast time! Breakfast time! Women, get up, start cooking!” It’s non-stop. “The time is now twelve minutes past three! Wake up!” and so on, with intermittent musical chanting, until finally climaxing in the prayer call at around 4:30am which signals the beginning of the fast. The devout refrain from drink, food, smokes and sex until sundown.

Some of our daughter's best friends were doing the fast. One friend, also aged six, did it for about a week. Our daughter was inspired to give it a go too, so she and I got up at 3:30am on the final day of the fast. We had a big bowl of muesli, a fried egg, and lots of water before collapsing into bed again. When I next awoke at 7am, I was already thirsty. It was going to be a long day.

As soon as our daughter met her friends outside she let them all know: “I’m fasting!” The other kids try to out-boast: “I’ve done the fast!” “I’m doing the fast too!” “No, you’re lying!” Then the teasing: “My little sister's not fasting. She's not fasting” our daughter would chant. Evidently they haven’t yet grasped the spiritual aspect of the fast.

“You’re not fasting are you?” some of the kids asked as we prepared lunch one day. “No, we’re followers of Nabi Isa Al’Masih. Do you know he said that when we fast we must fast in secret?” This strange idea was met with silence, then a change in subject. They’re kids: enough theology for one day!

Our daughter did remarkably well, though she allowed herself a glass of water at the 12pm and 3pm prayer calls, before we finally broke with sweet iced coconut at 6pm. We asked her later how she found it. “A bit annoying and hard” she said. Fair enough.

The end of Ramadan! Idul Fitri! The night was full of fireworks, drumming, and of course non-stop chanting on every loudspeaker in town, until the official prayers in the morning. And then, quiet, at last.