When I chose Islam, almost a decade ago, I did not have much experience with fasting. I had grown up in not a very diverse environment and my experience with the Lent was very limited, coming from a Protestant background. Still, some years we would attend weekly “soup meetings,” where different families would come together during the Lent to eat soup. While eating soup for dinner might be a real challenge for some people, for the often frugal Dutch, it is a very common Sunday meal, so it’s hardly something that would be thought of as “fasting”. Soup served with sandwiches is a legitimate meal to serve guests, to the horror of my husband, and undoubtedly for many other non-Dutch.
I have fond memories of my first years fasting Ramadan. By then I lived in a small Dutch university town and within the small Muslim community I was well-known, and (I guess) quite liked, as I was never short of invitations in Ramadan, and throughout the year, for that matter. The community was very diverse, but really rather small. As such, there was neither place nor reason to distinguish between different Islamic sects, languages or backgrounds. Most of us were living in the town temporarily, so there was a strong feeling that we had to cope with what we had, and it was not much. Our mosque consisted of two adjacent rooms in a partly empty and rather dingy office building. We did not have an Imam, but at times a more knowledgeable person would fit that role for a few months, maybe a year. Before long, he would leave to go back home or wherever his endeavors took him.
As women, we had our “sheikhas” too; that is how we would fondly refer to them. [Read more...]