The Aftari table, filled with the food to be eaten after the fast (Arooj Khalid/YJI)
LAHORE, Pakistan – The ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar is celebrated throughout the world by Muslims as Ramadan.
It is a month like none other because Muslims fast, or abstain from food or drink, from Fajr, which is the prayer at sunrise, to Maghreb, which is the prayer at sunset.
Fasting is obligatory for Muslims to worship Allah, and so that we may feel how the poor and unfortunate starve for food and drink while we eat our fill. The offices and schools and other work places reduce their time so that everyone can engage in worship and gain as much reward as they can.
The night before Ramadan began in Pakistan this year, the committee for the sighting of the moon announced that the moon had been sighted around 10 p.m.
I was quite excited, and for that reason, I didn’t sleep at night, and offered Traweh prayers. Also known as night prayers, or Qayam-ul-layil, these are special prayers offered in the nights of Ramadan.
At 2 a.m., we started preparing sehri, the meal before keeping a fast. I ate a paratha, or flatbread, and some stew and by 3:38 a.m., we were fasting.
After offering Fajr prayers, I went to sleep around 4:30 and awoke at noon. It was so hot, so much hot, and don’t talk about humidity!
But soon I got my mind off the weather and realized I had a lot of summer vacation homework to do. I don’t know why my school gives us vacation work even in 10th grade. I mean, who does? Anyways, I had to do it, so I finished my English literature homework all in one go. I was going to start computer science, when at 5:30 p.m., we started preparing for Aftari, the meal after breaking the fast.
We washed and cut vegetables for the most popular Aftari snack, pakoras, and then mixed chickpea flour and water in them, and then deep fried them. Most Aftari meals in the sub-continent have oily snacks, and fruitchaat, or fresh fruit salad, is a must.
It’s a hassle before the Aftari, as we want everything to be ready in time. Dates – don’t forget the dates!
Doodh soda (Arooj Khalid/YJI)
For the first day, we decided to make the red drink, laal sherbet, which is an extract from rose flowers and the sandalwood plant, and doodh soda. It is not actually a soda, it’s just a soft drink mixed with milk, and really yummy.
Drinks really matter in the Aftari as it is so hot during the day that when breaking your fast, you feel like rushing to grab a drink.
Laal sherbet (Arooj Khalid/YJI)
I just drank, drank, drank. But I kept the fruit chaat in the fridge for later – I love fresh fruits.
After Aftari, we offered Maghreb prayers, managed the kitchen and finally the day was over.
The first of Ramadan passed graciously, and I hope it’s the same for the rest of the Ramadan. As we say, “Ramadan is generous,” or “Ramadan Kareem!”
Arooj Khalid is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.