Time Out catches up with practicing muslims in Bahrain to talk faith
Time Out Bahrain staff
A chef at Luigi’s Restaurant & Pizza in Cypress Gardens, Budaiya ‘I have lived in Bahrain for nine years, and I am originally from Bangladesh. Ramadan is a special time, and I often try to go back home for the month to be with my family. Things become reversed, as in some ways night becomes day. We sleep longer during the day and work at night. As we have mixed nationalities and religions in the kitchen I don’t have to taste the food. Having learned my trade in Europe, I know the correct quantity for the ingredients, and the staff that are not fasting will taste for me. I don’t get hungry working with food, and often when it’s not Ramadan I will be so busy that I hardly eat.
I do get tired though and really appreciate the shorter day. If I go home to my family we break the fast with fruit juice and dried fruits, then have the Maghreb prayer. My wife will read from the Koran after this, as she also does in the morning. We are careful not to over-indulge, and eat mild curries with vegetables and meat, and have some traditional recipes that we prepare and take to our family and friends’ homes, sharing our food, sitting together, talking and laughing. At midnight we will have some fruit and then sleep until Suhoor. It’s all very peaceful and we spend a lot of time in silence and prayer, going about life slowly and quietly.’
Hind Mohammed Bucheery
Hind Bucheery, a Bahraini national, studied civil engineering at Oxford in England. She is the head of projects at BAS (Bahrain Airport Services). She is married with two children ‘For me Ramadan means spiritual purification of the soul. It’s also physically rejuvenating for the body and I feel more active and healthy. It’s actually a productive time at work because I feel more active and in the evening we have a routine that includes reading the Koran, Taraweeh (prayer). Everything seems to head toward a shared, set goal where everyone co-operates and life falls into routine. Our days adapt to the beat of Ramadan, I go to work as usual until the children finish school, then we rest or read the Koran or watch the religious programmes on TV, as there are a few on at this time.
Then we go to the “Big House” (my mother’s house in Muharraq) for Iftar. I like to enjoy what I’m eating, especially my mother’s food and the sweets my sisters prepare; it’s actually quite competitive. We enjoy eating together followed by the special sweet eating time and then Taraweeh (prayers). We sleep for a few hours and wake up for prayers before Fajr. So the quantity of sleep I get is small but the lightness I feel is due to the inner spiritual practice. We also visit the homes of elderly family members to share Iftar. It is festive and spiritual.’
Converted to Islam 25 years ago and works part time as a property manager ‘I first learned about Islam through my friends and fellow university students at California State University. I was an avid reader and I soon began to read any books I could purchase or borrow on Islam. I came to Bahrain with my husband, Dr Mohamed Al Zekri, and our daughter Majda after graduating. We believed that this would be the best thing for us, as my husband is a Bahraini national. My first Ramadan was a bit difficult, as it was my first experience fasting, however I took it gradually until I was successful from dawn to dusk.
It was an amazing accomplishment, and I realised the importance of being disciplined and how we can control our desires. So I am patient and embrace every hour of fasting as an opportunity to gain good deeds, enjoying every moment and cherishing the accomplishment it brings, leaving me content and happy that I have persevered. Ramadan is a time of forgiveness, understanding and spiritual enhancement. I personally use this time to do a spiritual inventory on what I have accomplished since the last Ramadan, so it becomes a time of questioning myself, as to whether the tasks that I set (last Ramadan) relating to many things like family or education, have been accomplished. I find I am more conscious of the time of day, as I don’t want to miss a prayer, and by doing so I become more productive.
Being careful about my words and actions is another awareness I develop, as Ramadan is not only a month of fasting, but also a time to improve your behaviour and actions. I aim to be more charitable and compassionate to others with things like a simple smile to brighten someone’s day. It’s a time of prayer and awareness of God, and also an intense social experience with Iftars and so many activities and opportunities to spend time with friends and family. It’s great to share a delicious meal with others who have fasted, but also my non-Muslim friends who want to share the moment with me and my family.’
Hussain Al Alawi
Managing director of the Al Hayat Group, a family business ‘Ramadan means more to me than just fasting during the day. Yes it’s one of the five pillars of Islam and people do it for this reason, but by fasting and the evening activities, I feel closer to God and my family and friends. It’s a spiritual experience; a cleansing of the soul. This is what people don’t really understand. Fasting teaches you to be more patient, to have more self control and discipline, and you use these qualities in many aspects of your life. What is the point of fasting if you are going to lose your temper and use bad language? You might be not eating and drinking, but this behaviour just negates the fast as in a way, you are really breaking your vow if you can’t stay focused on God.
During the month of Ramadan, work doesn’t stop – it just goes down a gear or two to a slower pace. Instead of working 8am-5pm, we do from 9am-2pm, as people are fasting and getting tired, so they really need a rest or sleep – then they can wake up and break the fast. Work and business become less on the agenda, and the social aspect becomes the focus where people get together, sharing and discussing things, which time normally doesn’t permit. For example, people have the majlis – this is when you have an open house for guests. Majlis really means “sitting room”, and you open your house to guests as a sort of casual get-together, and the host serves tea or coffee and light food.
My uncle, who is my father’s oldest brother, has a majlis for the men on Thursday, and people come to say hello, talk and just be together – it’s really nice. The nights become long and, after the majlis, I might then go out with friends to a Gabga or restaurant. My routine does change throughout Ramadan – I don’t have as much energy during the day and therefore I change my gym workout. As Ramadan is in summer this year, I will work out just before the break of fast, because it is more effective than after Iftar, so the session will need to be lighter than usual. Ramadan is a beautiful month, and you really feel that it passes by quickly when you reach the half-way mark; you feel that it is over.’