And no, this is not about the Twilight saga so unfortunately there is no goss here about that pale skinned Brit (Robert Pattinson is it? I call him by his nickname so to me he’s old Bob) and his on and off screen flame, I can’t even remember what her name is. Instead this post is about the sighting of the new moon and the commencement of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Not knowing when next I’ll be back in Cape Town, I wanted to document this event in a series of photographs of everyday life during the holy month where it is also a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment.
It occurred to me after class this morning that tonight was the start of this period and so I decided to take a walk up to Bo Kaap to take my first shots. I’ve always loved this area, though some parts are run down and decrepit but for the most part, the colourful houses and the community vibe is endearing to any visitor that goes there. My first stop was this yellow mosque on Chiappini Street. As I stood across the road taking pictures, not knowing whether I was allowed to or not, the caretaker (Hashim, on the veranda pictured above) motioned for me to come across.
Thinking he was going to tell me off for taking photos of his mosque, I went up the steps towards him but was pleasantly surprised when he started to explain to me the the history of the area and the mosque itself. Although it wasn’t the oldest one in Cape Town, he told me that it was 160 years old and that they are busy expanding into the plot next door because they can no longer accommodate all the worshipers and that on Fridays some people have to do their salaahs outside on the veranda.
He asked me if I brought a scarf with me as he wanted to show me the prayer room inside. Unfortunately I didn’t have one so he took the one he had draped around his shoulder and lent it to me so I could cover my hair before stepping in. It was a small room with separate ablution areas for women and men at the back and a small Qibla towards the front. On one of the walls were the plans and layout for the construction of the new building with details for the donation towards this expansion. Upstairs were the women’s prayer area with low ceilings.
All this time, he was telling me the importance of the fast. He explained that throughout this month of prayer and introspection, it was also a time to do good deeds and to refrain from impure thoughts and actions. This was a time for Muslims to practice self-discipline, empathy and a time to think of others by doing charity for those less fortunate. There was a family, community and social aspect to it where they would prepare food and invite people over for Iftar (to break the fast).
In a society where most of us don’t even interact much with our neighbours, it was somewhat refreshing to know that in some communities, it is still the common belief that no man is an island. Where the family unit extends to those around you in your neighbourhood and where strangers are welcomed in with open arms. It was disheartening to know that this was not the common impression that the majority of the public has about this religion. Unfortunately sensationalism sells and there are still those out there who don’t understand the true meaning of Islam – that is, peace and submission to Allah.
So to all those out there, Ramadan Mubarak and here’s to a better world.