This last June was Ramadan! For those of you who don’t know what Ramadan is, it essentially is (Islamic) fasting for the lunar month of Ramadan. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for 30 days. In addition, they may pray more, go to the mosque more, and read the Qur’an more. They are to refrain from bad deeds, sexual relations, and smoking.
Ramadan is supposed to redirect the heart from worldly things. It is supposed to humble Muslims and make them more generous.
I have had the opportunity to be in Islamic country during Ramadan before. That was on my NSLI-Y 6 week exchange to Turkey in 2014. I didn’t fast then, but it was really a wonderful experience to be able to be there for the holiest month in the lunar calendar.
Most exchanges end around May or June. AFS Indonesia extended our exchange year to cover all of Ramadan, so I got to experience Ramadan in a Muslim country again!
Since YES Abroad is a scholarship whose mission is to better understand Islam, I thought that it would make a lot of sense to fast for Ramadan.
So I did.
I got up at 3 AM every day and ate the pre-fasting breakfast with my host family. I fasted even when I hung out with friends and when I went to Bali (now that was pretty hard).
When the sun went down, I broke my fast with the traditional sweet food.
My school friends and my family would always ask me how it was fasting. If I told them I was hungry, they would encourage me to break my fast. I did not break my fast, however. Amazed, they would tell their friends and family that this Christian bule was fasting and she was pretty dedicated to it.
For a couple days in the month, I wore a hijab and long clothes to public places. I did this to gage Indonesians’ reactions and also to see what being a Muslim would feel like. What better way to understand people than putting yourself in their shoes?
The reactions I got were curious looks, smile, and respect.
Was I hungry?
Well, yes, but it wasn’t that bad. I fast in my own religion as well, so that might help me be more tolerant. In my religion, I fast the first Sunday of every month for two consecutive meals (which generally amounts to 24 hours).
Before I knew it, Ramadan was over. And when Ramadan is over, it’s Lebaran!
What is Lebaran?
Well, it’s better known as Idul Fitri to the rest of the world.
Lebaran is the end-of-Ramadan celebration/holiday. It lasts for 2 days after the end of Ramadan. The holiday is to show gratitude to Allah and give money to the poor.
In addition, people buy new clothes and wear them during Ramadan.
It was interesting waking up on the first day of Lebaran at 6 AM instead of 3 AM.
My family and I went to our neighborhood mosque and sat.
Then the congregation prayed the special Eid prayer.
After the Eid prayer, there was a sermon from an imam.
I wasn’t at the best vantage point for pictures of the congregation, so I didn’t take a lot of them.
In front of us, however, was a funny little girl who glared at me most the time.
Those eyebrows though.
It took me a while to get her to smile. With the help of her mom and my host sister, I finally did.
After the sermon was over, we stood up and met with all our neighbors. We told them “Mohon maaf lahir dan batin“, which means “Forgive my physical and emotional wrongdoings”.
The rest of the day was filled with going to people’s houses. We went to our neighbor’s house and ate food. We went to my host aunt’s house and ate food. We went to my host grandma’s house and ate food.
And it’s not just one meal, either. It’s constant eating.
I think that the whole of Ramadan is basically made up on Lebaran. People eat so much!
Besides eating, all the family meets and apologizes for their wrongdoings.
And my favorite part?
The elders give money to the kids.
At this point in my life, I am still considered a kid or a youth, so this is still applicable to me. I raked in a considerable amount, as did all the other kids. My host sister asked for more money (“for college”) and received it.
Dear America, can we make this a tradition? I have to go to college too.
In all, it was a wonderful holiday. I got to learn about how Indonesian Muslims do Ramadan and Lebaran. I really experienced what this time of the year is like for them.
And though this is a month late, I just want to say to all my readers:
Mohon maaf lahir dan batin.