Ramadan in a refugee camp.
Ramadan is the most important time of the year for Muslims. It’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and for this entire month, those who observe Ramadan fast between sunrise and sunset. This means no food AND water, as well as totally avoiding haraam (naughty) behaviours, and generally trying to live modestly and without indulgence. This admirable discipline is in an attempt to increase Taqwa, or consciousness of Allah. By living a simpler life, this month is a time of worship, spirituality, reflection, meditation, and a deep connection with Allah.
The month of Ramadan is not just about observing tradition or ritual, it is about a spiritual cleanse, and a worship to Allah through abstinence. There are some exceptions…you are not expected to observe Ramadan if you are pregnant, or on your period, or travelling, (the last of which I thought would apply to many of my friends in Calais, but everyone that I spoke to in the Jungle explained that a month of closeness with Allah was more important here than ever)..
“I really love the month of Ramadan; it’s the month of worship. Fasting is only 1% not eating and drinking, and the rest 99% is to bring your heart closer to Allah. We feel really happy,” explained one friend.
For those who have been raised within Islam, the adjustment to Europe can be confusing and daunting, and celebrating the most important month of a year in a refugee camp is frustrating and upsetting. The days are longer here too; the long summer evenings meaning the usual 14 hour fast becomes a 19 hour one. For one young boy I know, it was his first fast, as children don’t have to partake in Ramadan. He was celebrating the month alone.
While living in the camp, the most enjoyable part of Ramadan, for me anyway, is the evening breaking of the fast…Ifta.
The time of Ifta changes a little every day based on the sun, but this year it usually fell around 10pm. Day times is were much more sleepy than usual in the Jungle, but from around 4pm, the camp would begin to buzz: shelters being cleaned, water boiling, vegetables being chopped, food being bought, and tables being laid.
Everyone you cross paths with that day is invited to take ifta with you, so by 10pm, you are surrounded with good friends in good spirits, ready to take their first bite of the day.
Traditionally, the daily fast is broken with dates, as it is believed that this is how the prophet Muhammed broke his fast. After that, plates and plates of beautiful food are passed around, and hands grab as people eat, drink, chat noisily and laugh loudly. This is an important time for friends and community. Every ifta I took with my friends during the month of Ramadan in the Calais Jungle was an extraordinary and intimate time.
Ramadan in a refugee camp.
Worship, hope and love were palpable.
Written by our lovely tribe member Beatrice Lily Lorigan and a friend on the ground in the Jungle