Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ramadan Prayers

RantWoman appears to be observing Ramadan, at least to the extent of digesting the annual discussion of Ramadan on her local public radio station.

RantWoman was doing her usual several audio tracks at once half-listening thing through a good bit of the broadcast--until one of the speakers mentioned 50-gallon buckets of flowers and people of many faiths streaming to local mosques after September 11 in outreach and solidarity, curiosity, chagrin.

RantWoman remembers some frank hate crimes directed at Muslims in her area after September 11. RantWoman remember several co-workers in a commercial division of a local inescapable airplane manufacturer encouraging a woman from India to be extra careful in those days, more because she was brown than because of whatever faith she did or did not practice. RantWoman remembers a shift or two with Friends from her Meeting sitting vigil outside a local mosque during Friday prayers as religious congregations reached out.

The mosque had suffered several dangerous incidents of belligerence and ignorance and we wanted our neighbors to be able to worship freely. RantWoman also remembers thinking nothing of sitting alongside both men and women from her Meeting none of whom she was married to while the men and women streamed into their separate doors at the mosque but perhaps that is a meditation for another time.

Today though, after the 50-gallon buckets of flowers, the conversation turned to what openings the events of September 11 have created, to the number of schools and congregations who want to visit local mosques or to invite speakers in, to pastors and church members who share some or all of the fast. RantWoman would say that is a lot of death and destruction to bring about such an opening, but sometimes openings are to be seized when they arise.

The radio show then shifted to the dynamics of the fasting, of feeling closer to the poor, of not overdoing the breaking of the fast. One speaker mentioned losing weight and feeling less burdened by overconsumption by the end of the fast. RantWoman is simply going to leave this thought hovering like a smoke ring over her own meditations about abundance, overabundance, calories that are way too easy to get and that require way too little expenditure of energy. No, RantWoman is not simply going to leave this as a smoke ring, but she is going to come back to it later. Meanwhile, moments about other celebrations.

Thanks to the peregrinations of Ramadan among calendar points and other religions' holidays, RantWoman herself once was part of an idiosyncratic observance of Ramadan--over Christmas and New Year's while visiting her ferrener husband's family in Russia.*** The history of Islam in the lands of the Russian and Soviet empires is long and complex. Islam was one of the four faiths officially registered during the Soviet era. In post-Soviet upheavals, Islamic political movements and observances have taken on whole new dimensions and variability. RantWoman will consider whether to address this topic further another time.
***Alert readers may find the idea of RantWoman and a husband, um, unexpected. RantWoman is happy now to be separated, and there are many stories RantWoman is unlikely to revisit in this blog. However, this blog is also to honor some tender points and to revisit such spiritual nurture as sometimes comes tied up with Experiences of various flavors.

Although RantWoman has many indications that Ferrener Husband has an interior spiritual life, the exact dimensions of it are hard to define, possibly harder to define than God among Quakers. Islam is part of his faith and ethnic identity, it is tied in his head with memories of a very beloved grandmother and story after story about her protecting husband and all his deaf brothers from juvenalia in their community, about what she did or did not think of husband's father, and about how husband's mother made it through classes in the school where his grandmother taught.

But let us for now simply consider Ramadan in December in the frozen center of a frozen continent, where there is only about 6 hours of daylight a day. Spend Ramadan among a family of several scary alcoholics, the sort of scary alcoholics RantWoman could sensibly have avoided even getting entangled with though entangle she did. Naive readers will ask how a religion that proscribes alcohol consumption can engender scary alcoholics. RantWoman assumes denial works really well in such situations, and all the more so if one is surrounded by a larger rather ethnocentric culture of generally drinking oneself into oblivion. In any case, RantWoman spent way too much time during this visit just observing family dynamics even to inquire further.

Ferrener Husband's parents seemed to be observing Ramadan in a most peculiar way. They definitely preferred not to drink vodka during daylight. How does RantWoman know this? RantWoman was basically jet-lagged out of her mind from a 13-hour time difference with home. Holiday rituals also required lots of visitations and consumption of chocolate and tea, caffeine in several forms from early in the morning until late in the evening, just in case RantWoman thought she had any prayer of trying to right her internal clock.

About the second or third day of a visit, RantWoman's in-laws were terribly, terribly interested in having A TALK with RantWoman. A talk about abortion. A talk about abortion over vodka, before daylight set in. A talk about abortion while RantWoman was still trying to rub her eyes and check whether her body and the external schedule were somewhere in the same universe, never mind whether or not they were in the same time zone. Somewhere around 9 am the discussion began over tangerines, homemade meat pies called pilmeny with ketchup and a shot of vodka on the side.

Bear in mind that RantWoman had already discerned in-laws vehement and rather fixed views about a number of topics and by mutual consent with husband decided not even to go near alternate views. Bear in mind that almost any woman of a certain era has probably had ample opportunity for passionate discussions up one side and down the other of abortion. Add vodka at what to anyone but an alcoholic would be a decidedly ungodly hour! Then ponder ardent inlaws wanting RantWoman to know that, should she ever be considering an abortion, she should bring them the baby and they would raise it.

Looking back, RantWoman SUPPOSES she could have gone all Carrie Nation on the situation? You call yourselves Muslims? What about fetal alcohol exposure? Have you even heard of that? RantWoman further supposes that such an outburst would in its own peculiar way have fit spectacularly into the household dynamics. At the time though, RantWoman simply assured her in-laws that no abortions would be happening, downed enough pilmeny to blunt the vodka, and shared some modest toast, all before sunup. (RantWoman had a similar discussion later the same day with husband's even scarier alcoholic older brother except that one was in a kind of pidgin sign language and with notes written because older brother hardly spoke at all. Carrie Nation did not do sign language.) In honor of this memory RantWoman offers prayers for her inlaws; maybe later she will even poke about the interwebs and see what is new in Ferrener Husband's home town and what RantWoman can read if the alphabet / local language revivals all the rage in some former Soviet lands have not overtaken all of the media.

RantWoman thanks a group of young women at the bus stop last night for bringing her back to the present. The young women were more or less wearing Western dress and seemed to be in their late teens or maybe very early twenties. They were chattering not in English and laughing and playing some kind of music from someone's backpack. It was dark, and RantWoman is not quite sure why she thinks they must have been continuing a celebration at the bus stop. It was the sort of moment where even asking might have made the whole thing vanish, so RantWoman just smiled and looked away, toward where the bus would come.

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