I don’t know why I blanked on what exactly Ramadan kareem meant today. It means generous Ramadan, which I should have known. I briefly thought it meant blessed Ramdan, which is stupid because that’s Ramadan mubarak, which I also should have known! Do know. Somewhere in my mind… I even had a student named Karim (and I’ve had a Mubarak!) and we discussed what it meant and ugh, the way Arabic meanings just fly in and out of my brain is very frustrating.
Anyways, so Ramadan kareem was the standard greeting today, the first day of Ramadan. I do love that the theme of the month is about generosity. In money, in food, in kindness, in everything. And work/school hours get reduced. Which is good because more or less all the students fast, which makes them tired or irritable. This will actually be my first year teaching the full month of Ramadan. Previously it fell during finals or summer, so I never got a full month of full teaching days. (Ramadan moves a few weeks each year because the Muslim calendar is not the Gregorian calendar.)
You see the generosity in different ways. Before Ramadan there’s this Halloween-esque holiday in the UAE called Hag al Laila, (it has different names in other Gulf countries,) where kids go around to doors and people give them treats. They sing some song about how if people give to them, God will give to them. I’d actually never heard of that pre-Ramadan tradition before, but this year a few local students gave all their teachers and classmates a bag of sweets for the holiday, reminding us about the generosity of Ramadan. Then the day before Ramadan, there’s always students going around giving out dates to everyone. And then throughout the month, Muslims invite you to iftars and donate food to others and share food with other families and places like the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque host huge iftars for anyone who wants.
I went to iftar at the in-laws this evening. Iftar is the meal after sundown to break the fast. To be honest, it was mostly like any other dinner there for me. For everyone else, who’d been fasting since suhoor (the meal before sunrise), it was probably like the best thing ever. His family is always lovely and generous and trying to get me to eat everything, so this dinner was just that same old thing, but for more of a reason, perhaps.
My husband always looks forward to Ramadan, and I was like, what? Why would you look forward to a month of fasting? But if you look beyond the pain of fasting, it’s quite lovely in its meaning. (Which is obviously more than just generosity, but that part’s the one I noticed today.) Ramadan kareem!