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Ramadan in Sudan: A religious event with social implication

Sunday August 07, 2011 03:46:30 PM, Fikriya Aba Yazid

Ramadan is regarded a return to the original Sudanese kitchen and housewives call in their long experience and prepare genuine delicious Sudanese dishes and foods

(Photo: Associated Press)

Khartoum: Ramadan is considered by Muslims as one of the greatest months of the year in which the soul is sublimed and looks forward to gratification of the Greatest and Almighty God. It is a season opulence, forgiveness, graciousness and emancipation from Hell. It is a month of faith and piety and distancing from sins and devotion to worshipping (fasting, night worshipping, reciting the Koran, seclusion to worship) for which the souls are willing. It is a month of solidarity and consolation to the poor, of exchanging gifts and visits; it is also a month of holy fighting, jihad and victory (Prophet Mohammad-led Battle of Badr- Ramadan 17).


The Sudanese people have long been known for loving and celebrating the month of Ramadan which has a special taste and flavor for them and they prepare themselves to welcome it as of Rajab, two months ahead of its advent.


As of early Rajab, people busy themselves going to the markets which by that time become full of Ramadan commodities, while the women are particularly busy renewing their kitchen utensils, just to celebrate Ramadan, by buying new sets of dinner, tea, coffee, trays and juices. Houses are decorated and repainted also in preparation for the holy month, displaying love by all of the Sudanese people of Ramadan.


Society and religious customs in Sudan

Manifestations of the social and religious celebrations in the Sudan are varied. Villagers working in different Sudanese towns and abroad voluntarily return in great numbers to their villages ahead of Ramadan. Those include employees, workers and students who participate in all sports and cultural activities in the village which turns into a bee-hive shelf throughout Ramadan. The youths prepare the clubs, grounds and worshipping houses in the village which takes a brilliant appearance with its son who arrive from different places; the mosques are crowded with worshippers at night and are busy with programmes of religious throughout the day, including Koran recitations between midday and afternoon prayers.


Exhibitions of religious books are also displayed within the mosque courtyard. Men and women throng apart to perform the Taraweeh, the nightly prayers, which are performed only during Ramadan. During the Taraweeh, one chapter of the 30 chapters is recited; winding up the whole holy book by the end of Ramadan, and each Taraweeh is concluded with invocations and poems on Mohammad the Prophet. The worshippers intensify their worshipping activities; remain in the mosque till dawn, in the hope of witnessing Laylat al-Qadr (the night during which God bestows fortune to lucky worshippers).


During this holy month, the sufis intensify their religious rites of invocations and special verses of the Holy Koran in addition to intensified religious classes before sunset prayers and after having the sunset breakfast


Religious Vocalization Sessions

Those sessions, in which vocalists repeatedly invoke God’s name in the company of drums, are organized after the Taraweeh prayers.


The Programme of Khalwah (a room where students are secluded to memorize the Holy Koran) is run throughout the year, including the fasting month of Ramadan, except that, during Ramadan, the Koran students are distributed in groups to families of the village to share the sunset breakfast.

The Sufi sects observe certain occasions during Ramadan such as Badr Battle (Ramadan 17) and the conquest of Mecca. Celebrating such occasions, they begin with speeches commemorating the occasion and then they start singing religious poems.


The sheikh (Sufi sect leader) every year chooses the most outstanding disciple to travel to the Holy Lands in Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimage as a reward.


The Sufis lay the Rahman (Gracious) tables for both Muslims and non-Muslim, even animists, to have collective sunset breakfast during Ramadan.

A Sufi is said to survive only on Guarad, a fruit of acacia trees, a very bitter small one, which he soaks and drink its water to show that he is disinterested even in ordinary food. The Sufis believe that a Sufi who can live only on Guarad for the whole day is honest, while the other who cannot afford this is of a weak faith. They also believe that Guarad is disinfectant.


Sudanese Good habits during Ramadan:

Drinking the Water

This phrase is used by the Sudanese to refer to Ramadan breakfast which has peculiar practices in the Sudan distinguished from other Muslim communities. A remarkable habit in the Sudanese villages during Ramadan is that people get together in large numbers on the main streets for the sunset breakfast; a group of the elders stand at the cross-roads to insistently invite passersby to join in and they never allow anybody to pass by without accepting the invitation to share the breakfast. They even force the drivers to stop by placing stones on the road minutes before the breakfast time and thus the drivers will have no alternative other than park and get down for the breakfast.


Men and boys of neighboring houses usually have the sunset breakfast together and the young men of the neighborhood prepare a sufficient space of land in the open to make room for the neighborhood residents and their likely guests. In the well-off neighborhoods, such spaces are paved with white sand and prayed with water. Carpets and prayer rugs are stretched for people to have breakfast and perform prayers on after the meal. Usually, those carpets are kept in a certain house and are taken out only during Ramadan.


Well before the Azan (call for prayers) the men sit down on the carpets while the young men bring in from the houses trays full of a variety of delicious foods and juices and immediately after the Azan, every one sits down to eat and drink, starting with a date as a must like what Mohammad the Prophet used to do, from the nearest tray, not necessarily the one brought from his house, signifying solidarity and equality between the poor and rich.


Ramadan Tray

Ramadan tray contains genuine Sudanese foods and drinks, particularly aseedah (porridge made from sorghum), hilu-mur (sweet-bitter, a drink made from sorghum and all kinds of spices) and kerkede drink, lemon and various kinds of meat, fruit and juices.


In addition to hilu-mur and kerkede, other drinks of peculiarity in Ramadan include aradaib and tabalde, both bitter acacia fruits. After eating dates and drinking pure water, all worshippers line up behind the imam to say sunset prayers and immediately after that they all assault the trays to squash thirst and defeat hunger.


Ramadan Food

Ramadan is regarded a return to the original Sudanese kitchen and housewives call in their long experience and prepare genuine delicious Sudanese dishes and foods, including kisra, which is made from sorghum accompanied by a thick powdered okra and dried beef, gurrasah which is made from wheat flour, salads and other kinds of highly nutrient foods. In the past, each region and each tribe of the Sudan used to be famous for a specific kind of food or drink but now that people migrated from one region to another in the Sudan, diet cultures have also migrated across the country.


This article first appeared on on August 05, 2011.






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