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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rubaiyat Ramadan


From every place indeed... but mostly from Tartous, I wish you all a very happy Ramadan. Understandably, it's going to be a tough one this time around but look at it this way: this is the last "not extremely difficult" Ramadan for the next 10 years.

Muslims fast in Ramadan and abstain from eating and/or drinking from before sunrise till sunset everyday. For the unaware, Ramadan is a lunar month from the Hijri Calendar. Accordingly and since a lunar month is exactly 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes and 3 seconds long, lunar and solar years are asynchronous. A lunar year is roughly 11 to 12 days shorter. A lunar calendar, albeit having been used extensively in the past, is inherently impractical and was all but replaced by the more sensible solar calendar. It cannot be relied upon for any sort of planning, say agricultural for example, and is still in existence for mainly religious purposes. Over the centuries most lunar calendars have been modified into lunisolar calendars (a combination of lunar and solar) to compensate for the missing days. To this end, the Chinese, the Hebrew and the Hindu calendars have a variable number of months per year. A most ingenious scheme was adopted by the Farsi (Iranian) Calendar where a 13th month is added every 3 years. Alas, twisted political grudges and morbid theological inflexibilities rather than sound logical reasoning prevented Muslims from relying on this pragmatic solution. Think about it, Ramadan could have been fixed in say March of every year. You might wonder why I didn't choose December, being the solar month with the least daylight hours thus making fasting easier for everybody. Well, I couldn't ignore our Australian brothers and sisters down under. Their December is like our June and accordingly I chose a middle ground. Had I been in a position of power at any time during the last 1000 years, I would have made that brave decision. You and even the most rigid of adherents would have loved it and praised my wisdom and farsightedness. You are well aware that many of our national heroes and legendary religious figures have made much smaller and less courageous contributions yet have somehow managed to get a place on a pedestal we elected to erect for them in the middle of a cerebral desert.

Omar Khayyam's Jalali Calendar of 1079 is believed to be the real ancestor of the Farsi Calendar. If you don't know enough about Omar Khayyam and his exceptional value to the entire human race and if you have not read any of his Rubaiyat (quatrains) then do yourself a favor and learn about this exceptional man. Ramadan is a perfect time to read indeed. A superb work of fiction about Omar Khayyam with absolutely sound historical background and facts is Samarkand by Amin Maloof. It was originally written in French (Samarcande, 1989) by the famed Lebanese author but have been translated into all major languages. With all due respect, the works of Leonardo, Galileo, Dante, Shakespeare, Newton and Einstein to name but a few of the great ones, simply fade in comparison to the literary, scientific but most importantly human treasures of the great Khayyam. He was way ahead of his times. He's still way ahead of most of us.

Back to me, I am therefore I fast. Ramadan Karim to you all and may God, the loving and caring one of Omar Khayyam bless you with his mercy and overwhelm you with his generosity.

30 comments:

Mariyah said...

Ya Abu Fares! Mubarak alaikom al shahar. Its a wonderful time to be with family and friends! All the best to you and yours.

Lujayn said...

كل عام وانت بخير ابو فارس ورمضان كريم
انشالله شهر سلام عليك وعلى عائلتك

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your blog,and I wish you all a very happy Ramadan to you and to everybody.

Anonymous said...

happy Ramadan.
The Hebrew calander is indeed lunar but they also have a 13th month every few years (it's not exactly every 3 years but it cycles every 18 years) and by that keep coordinated with the solar year.

Rime said...

Ramadan Karim to you and your family Abufares.

I've been away from the blogosphere for the last month and have a lot of catching up to do, but I had to stop to say that I loved your reading recommendations for this month. Lol! Khayyam (whose Rubaiyat I love, but not the Fitzgerald "translation" of course) triggers a lot of raised eyebrows by our holier-than-thou know-it-all folks back home and elsewhere.

Maalouf's Samarcande is just a wonderful book, you have put me in the mood to read it again after so many years, having become a Maaouf fan since the amazing Leon l'Africain.

Are we allowed to digress during Ramadan?

KJ said...

Ramadan Mubarak my man :)

I will be checking out your recommendations and I do hope they have it in the library this time

abufares said...

@Mariyah
Ramadan Karim to you and yours. I try to minimize my travel in Ramadan and conserve my energy. I plan to do a lot of reading in the afternoons and am waiting for cooler temperatures to jump on my bike and make short rides in the Tartous countryside.
Once my schedule returns to normal and I make a call to Damascus I'll certainly get in touch with you.

abufares said...

@Lujayn
And more happy days to you. Thank you for your wonderful wishes.

abufares said...

@anonymous 1
You're welcome and best wishes to you as well.

abufares said...

@anonymous 2
Thank you for the insight. Only the Farsi calendar (as far as I know) adds a 13th month every 3 years. Lunar calendars make corrections to synchronize with the yearly cycle of the sun and accordingly become lunisolar.
Thank you for the wishes and Happy Ramadan to you.

abufares said...

@Rime
I miss you girl... but this is not the right time to digress on this subject (being Ramadan :-)
I read Samarcande in less than 48 hours as I became inflicted with a reading frenzy. As a result,I went out and bought all of Amin Maaloof's books. It was one of the wisest decisions I ever made as Mr. Maaloof is a universal writer with an exceptional ability to make a complex story enjoyable and easy to follow, while, and most significantly, remaining truthful to history.
You should read Samarcande again since it is one of the most entertaining, enlightening and educational books I have ever read. Within arm reach of my bed, lie 3 or 4 of Maaloof's books. I reached in the darkness last night and grabbed what turned to be "Le rocher de Tanios". What a wonderful re-read this will prove to be.
Let's keep on digressing. It's the only acceptable turn on for the time being.

abufares said...

@KJ
You will find Amin Maalouf's work in Arabic for certain. By the way, the translations are excellent. Although I have not read any of his books in English I've been told that they were extremely well translated as well.
Once you finish Samarcande you'll feel hungry and deprived if you don't get your hand on Omar Khayyam's Quartets. I have read two Arabic translations by Saleh Al-Jaafari and Ahmad Rami.
The first is more faithful to semantics and pure form while the second is more of a free translation by a very gifted poet. Rubaiyyat Al Khayyam of Om Kalthoum is the work of Ahmad Rami. It's my favorite but I would wait till the Eid el Fitr before I embark on this fascinating journey of the mind and soul.

Anonymous said...

Abufares, there is always somthing to learn from you,
Ramadan karim to all,

Az3ar's Fan said...

Abu Fares:

Ramadan mabark wa seeyam magbol.

So may I presume,and make a fool of myself, you are not going to finish the Quran??? I suppose al Rubaiyat will do. And no Arak or beer for a whole month?

abufares said...

@lê
Kol 3am Wa Anta Bi Kheir & Ramadan Karim.
When you feel like going inside the wilderness of the soul, nothing, absolutely nothing beats reading a good book.

abufares said...

@Az3ar's Fan

Ramadan Karim!
Many of the Rubaiyat are nested inside my head and they keep popping up as the occasion might call. I will leave them though till later as they are a celebration of life. I read the Quran in and out of Ramadan. This year, I have to catch up with my reading as a whole.
Of course no drinking at all... there's always a time for that... later.

Ram the scots said...

Ramadan Karim to you and your family..

My wife is in Tartous these days, she says that she is having good time.... I really wish I was able to visit my beloved city this year. However, work commitment as usual stopped me from doing so.....

Any way, Ramadan Karim again, and I hope to meet you next year..

Anonymous said...

Happy Ramadan. i never understood why the fasting, so maybe you can enlight the non-muslim about this. Also, is everyone expected to fast, or are the children exempt?

anyway, as non religious person i do admire that you keep up with your traditions. it must feel some void that maybe I missing...

Again happy Ramadan.

w.b. yeats

DUBAI JAZZ said...

I've been meaning to read Samarkand for the last ten month. Maybe it's time I do this by making use of the little extra time during Ramadan.

Ramadan Kareem :)

abufares said...

@Ram the scots
Thank you for your wishes and I look forward meeting you as well.

abufares said...

@w.b. yeats
Every time I read your words the sound of your laughter and the sway of your cute... assault my head and leave me smiling like a little picaro boy (again). BTW, fasting includes abstinence from food, drink and SEX (I forgot to mention that in this post).
Children, hard-working laborers, pregnant women or in menstruation and the sick do not have to fast.
I find it very strange to try to explain fasting from a personal point of view rather than the official religious version. But you always deserve a true answer.
Back when I was in the US I didn't fast. When I returned home to Tartous, fasting again was a tough wall to climb. My father never missed a day of fasting. My wife. My daughters. Even 8-year old Fares tried it a couple of days last year and plans to fast for at least 5 days this Ramadan. My faith is independent from religion and although I live on a solitary island as far as the people I share my destiny with I accept that I don't live in a "void". In all honesty though I'm not physically comfortable for the entire month. I drink plenty of water normally and thirst makes me very edgy. My efficiency is greatly reduced and my tolerance is tested to the limits. Yet, I cannot but fast out of self-respect and reverence to a way of life and to the people I share my time with.
Does God really need my fasting? I don't think so. Does any God of any religion (assuming that there are different versions of God) need sacrifice and humility from his worshipers? I seriously doubt it.
What I find interesting and worthwhile in Ramadan though goes beyond abstinence. The sharing of the meal together at sunset. The relief of drinking that first swig of water. The feeling of accomplishment especially for the young. The generosity associated with the month and the compassion to neighbors and total strangers. The charity to the poor and needy, the inevitable equality or semi-equality across different socio-economic classes... these bring a little peace to my heart.
I also love the extra free time I find in the afternoons. I ride my bike, I go with friends on boat rides or for a swim. I read book after book. I get at least 2 hours of solitude everyday. I stop drinking and partying and as thus I feel as if this spiritual break came in just at the right moment. Year after year.

abufares said...

@DJ
Excellent choice my friend. Please let me know what you think about it once you complete it.
Kol 3am Wa Anta Bi Kheir

Anonymous said...

From before sunrise until sunset means that you fast during the day, and are able to eat and drink at night? (and sex!!!) or nothing, nothing, nothing for the whole time??? I'm thoroughly confused...

To fast for 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes and 3 seconds for the whole 24 hour day (if it is for the 24 hrs) seems like death to me. Maybe that is the purpose, to feel that you are being reborned. I must say, I would not be able to do this for long... (or most probably I would not care to, life is too short!)

Your personal decision to follow Ramadan makes more sense to me than the Religious interpretation. I can not believe in the existence of different Gods for different religions. Or any God, fot that matter. How could any God allow so much injustice in the world? If there is a God he/she/it has very weird sense of humor!

I do not believe in "God" as an entity. Maybe more a balance of positve and negative energy... Although lately the scale seems to tip more to the negative side, I always seem to find something that makes me feel this world is worth fighting for. Thus, I keep striving to be able to make a difference, to feel that somehow somewhere I have made my positve contribution.

If 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes and 3 seconds of fasting with your fellow men/women make you and your love ones achieve this sense of positive contribution, of unity, of hope... Then happy Ramadan indeed!

w.b. yeats

Karin said...

RAMADAN KARIM dear Abufares ... to you and your loved ones!

I will have an interrupted Ramadan this year (till then I'll fast of course!) due to a major surgery on September 12th ... but I will make it up sometime later on during the year.

I wish you ALL only the BEST ... missing you ALL a LOT!!

Ammoontie said...

Ramadhan Kareem to Abu Fares and family in Tartous...Hope the month will bring its Blessings to all of us. How about a post on your lovely iftar spread ?

Salam from Malaysia.

abufares said...

@w.b. yeats
Abstinence is from Sunrise to Sunset. At night we're free to eat, drink and have sex.
If you would really like to know more about Ramadan: Check this out:

http://www.abufares.net/2006/09/ramadan-101.html

If you want to read more about Ramadan in Tartous and watch a couple of short videos, check the various posts under this heading:

http://www.abufares.net/search/label/Ramadan

abufares said...

@Karin
Ramadan Karim and Salamtek.

Please write and tell me about the surgery. You've got me worried.

abufares said...

@Ammoontie
Ramadan Karim to you and yours in Malaysia. I can't wait to visit your country. I came very close to do so this summer. Well, may be next year.
I will post about an Iftar with some photos of course.

Omar said...

Ramadan kareem Abu Fares. Very insightful post. After commenting here I will hit Wikipedia for Omar Khayyam's article.

abufares said...

@Omar
Sorry for being a little late in replying to your comment.
Ramadan Karim to you too my friend. My advise is to try and read Samarkand. In addition to being a great novel I found it the best authority on Omar Khayyam.