Last minute packing for me includes copying everything on flash drives, selecting windows and paint and kitchen cabinetry, and copying keys for the office. I am scheduling time to say goodbye to my children, to have time with them before I end up in Heaththrow, buying perfumes and watches for relatives.
It feels unworldly. I feel, I am not myself.
Everyone keeps asking me about how I am going to manage fasting Ramadan.
I know....It is going to be long this year.
Longer in the land far and away, than in Muscat. Fajr is at an ungodly hour, and Magraib is after eleven p.m. most nights. Don't even get me started about taraweeah prayer because I am most likely not gonna do that at all this year, maybe one night, maybe two and that's it. Besides, the Prophet S.A.W never prayed taraweeah en masse, so I guess I am ok with not doing it.
Ibadhi and Sunni friends argue the etiquette for fasting for people far and away, where sunlight never ends, or darkness, for months. Go with Mecca, I am urged. Go with Muscat, whisper others.
At first, I told myself, I will pray traveler's prayers, and not fast.
But then, something happened to remind me about people who are poor who can't choose, well, I'm not gonna eat today...
I am going back to the land far and away because there is an illness in my family. Someone I am very close to, is very sick, and, unless there's a miracle, like Allah wills this person to heal, well, they will slowly starve to death, unable to eat... So fasting one month, even a very long time, while being with this person in this state, should remind me... Not everyone has the luxury of choosing to fast.
I remember, on this Islamic TV programme, people were phoning in, to ask the stupidest, most repetitive questions to the Islamic scholar on the program. Like, the same questions people always ask, that are in every book you ever read about Ramadan. Very annoying. Its why I don't watch programs like this, it annoys me. However, I didn't have sole custody of the remote control.
But one caller was different. I don't know where they were from anymore---some village in Africa--- but the person was calling on behalf of the entire village. He was like, is our fast still valid if we don't break our fast?
The scholar was like, you have to break your fast...
And then the man explained... We are intending to fast for the sake of Allah, and we would break our fast at Magraib, but we have no food usually at this time, to break our fast. Will Allah still count our fasting?
Everyone, and I mean everyone, was like, whoa....
The Scholar had tears in his eyes, when he told the man---and those people---Yes, your fast counts if you make the intention to fast, even you might not be able to break your fast.
It made me cry too, but not enough I guess, because in my heart, I still dislike fasting. I still don't get it, or maybe I forget, even though I have been hungry before, I've never been hungry for a month, not for months, not for years, not to death...
Seeing people die of hunger or not enough water is awful. I've seen it before, but was distant from it. I mean, I separated myself from it, put it in a box, buried it, don't think on it. I can be beside someone, when it happens, but it doesn't touch my heart or stay with me. I don't let it. Maybe this experience, too, I'll box it away, and try to forget it? I don't know.
But I can't be distant from it now at the moment, and being close to death from starvation, during Ramadan, I don't know if I should take it as a blessed lesson from Allah, or a punishment for me being so crap at caring about others' almost all the rest of the time during my life.
While I am happy it is Ramadan, I forget so many blessings. Health. Having more than enough. Being safe. Hell, being happy, even that, is so beyond some. I may not sound happy writing this, but sorrow makes happiness ever so more poignant. Like a cool glass of water after a day in the hot sun of Oman, fasting, or bread in the stomach after eighteen hours without food.
Happy early Ramadan to you all, and have a safe Eid Al Fitr, inshaAllah, my beloved Oman.