Sunday, August 31, 2008
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.