AHLAN WA SAHLAN YAA RAMADHAAN

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Daytime normally constitutes of occupation with work and school, with many of the Muslim countries altering schedules to accommodate Ramadhan, and restaurants are closed in countries like Pakistan and Somalia, and no one eats in public during the day. While right before Maghrib the cities become like ghost towns, the streets, homes, and Masajid come alive during the night, especially after Iftaar. People visit each other, go to the bazaars and food stands, kids play and sing outside and the Masajid become crowded for ‘Isha and taraweeh.

In the village, Afifa Afifi, of Princeton, N.J., remembered that children in the small village of Sharqiyyah, Egypt, would hold lanterns and sing songs for Ramadhan, including “Ahlan wasahlan ya Ramadhan,” welcoming Ramadhan. Aly Ramadan, of Virginia, used to sing such songs as a child in Libya, he recalled.

As the cities got more and more urbanized, “you don’t see a lot of these traditions in the new quarters’ streets,” Afifi said. But, in the old quarters of Cairo, the celebrations do continue on the streets. Tents are put up and people come to listen to lectures, she recalls.

In contrast, there are many entertainment programs on TV after Iftar which draw people’s attention away from ‘Ibadaat. These include game shows with riddles, plays, dramas and even soap operas, and they are especially made for the month of Ramadhan. “They have nothing to do with Ramadhan. The government shouldn’t allow them,” she said. Even so, some of the programs are about Qur’an and lectures, and an entire radio station is devoted to Quraan, its tafsir, and ahadeeth, even during other months. “You have two things and a person can choose one or the other,” Afifi said.

Alia Amr, of Madison, Wis., remembered that after iftar people tended to split into two groups in Tunis. “There’s the group of worshippers who pray ‘isha and taraweeh and then come back and stay home with their families,” she said. The other group of people did not pray but they did fast, and after iftar they left their homes in search of entertainment and socialization.

“Entertainment is abundant in Tunisia, both halal and haram, including dancers and theaters,” she said. “When you go to the Masajid, they are full and you think everyone’s there, but then when you go to the streets, they are also full of people.”

One of the things Aly Ramadan disliked in Libya was that people would stay up very late at night. “This affects their productivity the next day and they are drowsy during the day. This isn’t because of fasting, but their (habits),” he said. Some used to play cards, or sit in the cafes, or go to social clubs, he said, instead of committing themselves to the faith.

In Karachi, Pakistan, however, most people would turn in after taraweeh, Afzal Hasan, of Jamaica, N.Y., said. But, the stores would open until late at night, and the bazaars would be very active. Particularly in the last week of Ramadhan, as Eid gets near, some shops would be open even until suhur.

One of the special occasions celebrated in Pakistan during Ramadhan is when a child fasts for the first time, Muzaffar Khan, who lived in Pakistan for 22 years, said. “Normally, an (iftar) feast is arranged for the relatives and the child receives a lot of gifts, as an encouragement,” he said.