Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The best of all medicinces is resting and fasting. ~Benjamin Franklin

"Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar...It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until dusk. Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramaḍān is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramaḍān, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds. As compared to solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary, moving forward about ten days each year. Ramadhan was the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed[Qur'an 2:185] to the Prophet Muhammad." (Wikipedia - yes I know its not a real reference, so you can look up the real references on the Wikipedia article)

A few days before Ramadan began, I was invited to attend the kickoff of a new project called Twaweza tukiwa pa moja (literal translation: We are able/We can if we are together). At this event, community elders and religious leaders were invited. There were some religious leaders who even came all the way from Mombasa (10.5 hours away by public transport).
At any rate, at this event, I got a chance to meet people who work with organizations like Aphia II, the World Food Programme, local clinics, the Kenya Red Cross, etc.

As there were religious leaders and community elders, a lot of the gathering took place in Kiswahili and in another language - I think it was Somali. Unfortunatley, I didn't understand a lot of what was said in Somali. I did understand what they were talking about though and I do have faith in this new project.

Anyways, this blog post is not about the project, its about Ramadan so lets get back to Ramadan. At this community gathering, the religious leaders mentioned the upcoming Ramadan. Since I didn't know much about Ramadan, I did what I thought would get me the most information without appearing to be ignorant: I googled it. After I had some basic information about Ramadan I asked some people in my town for further information in regards to how it would affect the town.

In a nutshell this is what happens: everything shuts down. OK not everything, but my favorite hotelis (small restaurants/cafes) are closed. It would be ignorant on my part to say that everything shuts down as the population here is not entirely Islamic.

As part of Ramadan, fasting takes place from dawn til dusk which means that there are no hotelis that will have food or drinks available until dusk. It is safe enough for me to walk from a few hotelis that are not too far if I want to eat out, but my favorite hotelis are much farther away and I would probably spend more money on a taxi back than on the food itself. Its only for a month so I suppose I will survive.

Also related to Ramadan, though not related to the aforementioned event, last week at the Cross Sector workshop (see previous blog posts) I met a gentleman named Said who said he's going to get me some reading materials. Included in those materials will be an English translation of the Qur'an and the Hadith.
Said also recommended that I try fasting during Ramadan to further integrate and better understand the community.

I have been following his advice (though not only because it was his advice). In part, I was following his advice, but at the same time I was more interested in what it would be like to fast. On top of it all since this is my first time living in a predominantly Islamic community I thought it would be a good idea to fast with them.
I realize of course that not the entire town is Islamic yet I want to learn as much as I can about their culture and make the most of my time in this community.

I also want to mention that since Ramadan has started I've had more invitations to join Islam than I've had in the rest of the time I've been in this community. In fact, today as I was making my way to the Kenya Red Cross to offer myself as a volunteer I had three invitations to join Islam.


  1. i love how googling things is the solution to everything.

    also, i think fasting during ramadan is a fascinating way to get to know a culture better. you seem immediately more accepted by the local muslim community, which also seems very keen on converting you!

    a thought on conversion (because i know you've been thinking about it): religion is a touchy subject for most people in this world. it means everything to some and nothing to others. i think it's great to test the waters of many religions and spiritual beliefs in the search to find the one that's right for you, but i also think that this can be done without conversion. to me, conversion doesn't seem quite genuine if it's done for exploratory purposes. learn first. read. test. try. take your time. your spiritual development does not require a single affiliation or conversion :)

  2. Thanks for the comment! I <3 getting comments :)

    First I think I should say Google is my best cyber friend. At the time I did not want to appear naive to the community by asking so I thought I should do some research first and then seek clarification.

    Also, the combination of wearing a kikoi (man skirt; they're very comfortable by the way) and fasting, I've noticed a lot more respect from community elders.

    Lastly, I appreciate your feedback on religion. In fact, a gentleman I met by the name of Said has assisted me by providing some literature about Islam. One of the books is the Holy Qur'an.
    Learning and reading are underway. Once I have enough information and when I feel comfortable, I will test and try and see what happens. No rush though, as they say "katika Kenya hakuna haraka" (in Kenya there is no hurry).