By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
The Ramadan season in Kuwait is in full swing with shops being jostled by last minute shoppers and eager children. The whole country has taken on a new appearance with shops adorned with colorful Ramadan lanterns offering everything from sweets to special drinks for iftar. The air is filled with a sense of universal brotherhood, a united love for Allah and anticipation for racking up as many good deeds as possible during this precious holiday.
I have spent every single Ramadan, for the past eleven years, in Kuwait. I could not imagine spending Ramadan anywhere else but in a Muslim country. The feeling of this most pious occasion is simply amazing when you know that just about everyone in your community is going through the same hunger pangs and joys of breaking the fast as you are. I especially love the time just prior to the â€˜Suhoorâ€™ meal, which is eaten right before the time for Al-Fajr, or the Dawn, prayer. It is literally the middle of the night. Yet if I look out my window I can see that everyoneâ€™s lights are on! And I can smell the scent of delicious warm bread floating in the air and sneaking into my home through the open window. And when the adhan comes it is so loud that my windows actually rattle and makes me want to race to perform the prayer. I make it a habit to sneak a peek outside my balcony door a few minutes after the adhan every morning of Ramadan. The scene is just amazing! The streets are filled with grown men and young boys running down the streets with their prayer mats swung over their shoulders and swinging in the musky air as they head to the nearest mosque to worship Allah. Now, that is what I call one â€˜Amazing Raceâ€™!
The iftar meal in Kuwait is a whole other matter! My doorbell starts ringing a few minutes before iftar every few days during Ramadan. Some of my neighbors in my building send delectable treats from their own cultures which fills my iftar table with an international feast featuring cuisine from countries like Pakistan, Egypt and Syria. I also try my best to include my own country, the U.S., on my neighbors tables by sending them funnel cakes, pumpkin pie and macaroni & cheese over the course of Ramadan. Inevitably I lose some of their dishes or accidentally break some in the hustle and bustle of cleaning up before the taraweeh prayers. Amazingly enough I have not gotten rebuked yet! But I wonâ€™t be surprised if this year all my neighbors send their Ramadan treats on PLASTIC plates!
One of the negative aspects of the Ramadan season in Kuwait is the advent of crimes that occur only during the month of fasting. Non-Muslims in Kuwait are required by law to respect fasting Muslims by not eating or drinking in public. Restaurants are often closed until after sundown and the ones that remain open cover their windows with heavy curtains. The punishment for breaking this law is the imprisonment of violators until Ramadan ends and then deportation back to their home country. Some poor non-Muslims expatriates actually seize Ramadan as a free ticket to go home. Often some will have picnics, in public, in the last week or so of Ramadan during the fasting hours. They inevitably are arrested and sent home which is just what they wanted!
Another crime is the incidence of begging. Poor GCC nationalsâ€™ often travel to Kuwait to beg during Ramadan. They will approach you as you get out of the car or ring your doorbell right before Iftar. Often, they will keep pushing the bell until they get what they are after. They make a â€˜killingâ€™ during Ramadan by begging for cash and the authorities are kept busy the entire month trying to stamp out begging. I have had many beggars land on my doorstep some of which have torn at my heart and others have given me a giggle! Whenever I find a mother with her children standing on my doorstep I always try to be charitable. But when I see someone who is clearly just taking advantage of the season I never open the door. Last year a woman rang my bell for over ten minutes. When I looked through the peephole she had a hijab haphazardly wrapped around her head with hair sticking out in all directions. Itâ€™s sad to say but some non-Muslims don the hijab when they beg because they think they will get more handouts from Muslims.
However, I must say the worst crime that occurs during Ramadan is price gouging. Grocery stores and specialty shops often raise their prices by 15-25% during Ramadan. This adds an unnecessary burden to families already struggling with increased rent and school fees. The public in Kuwait has no choice but to pay the outrageous prices to ensure that their cupboards and refrigerators are full to feed their families and Ramadan guests. As always, in Kuwait, it is hard if not impossible to ever catch a break.
Ramadan comes but once a year. Regardless of your location spend this month in devoted worship to Allah and in the arms of your loving friends and family. May Allah Almighty make this month a success for you and may all of your duas be answered!