The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond


So I remember a frequent call from my colour sergeant when I was a cadet at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. It was ‘Shut the f*** up ladies’. Nearly always deserved because we would break out into chatter whenever we could and I will admit with 25 women all talking together at a unified higher pitch the sound is a bit like the most annoying nails across a blackboard ever.

I think the imaam at the mosque at last night’s prayers would have felt the same pain as my colour sergeant at Sandhurst. I was at the night prayers – called taraweer- that are held during Ramadhan, which take place after the usual last prayer of the night Isha. Am I making sense? Basically it’s an add on extra set of prayers at the end of the day. More blessing/ brownie points. It’s actually a way to recite the entire 30 chapters of the Qu’ran through the month, whilst in prayer. Quite impressive to witness as it’s physically demanding and someone has learnt all that off by heart. Standing in those prayers takes some stamina! But it’s nice and spiritual. It also helps with digesting all the food just eaten after the day of fasting so I think it all works well together. Food for the body and then more food for the soul. Anyway because everything is done in blocks – we pray the ishaa prayer together and then there’s a little gap whilst everyone takes some slugs of water, shuffles along to fill gaps in the lines and prepares for the next set. And guess what – the ladies up in their section start TALKING! In mosques men and women are segregated. I for one would not feel comfortable with some of the moves we do in prayer, like bending over or kneeling in prostration if there was a bloke behind me. It’s practical. Anyway at the prayer interlude there goes that high pitched chatter that pierces the eardrums of all not involved and the ladies will not be quiet!! The imaam tried twice to shut the ladies up – but he gave up in the end. He just started with ‘Allah-u-Akbar’ to mark the start of the taraweer – indicating that we are starting without you ladies – and then thankfully they did stop talking about what they had cooked for breaking the fast or complaining about women not standing where they should be. Oh yes – that is a whole blog piece of it’s own. The little dictators that emerge every year to pull and push you around mid-prayer. Grrr.

No wonder women get a rough deal in getting access to mosques – Muslim blokes can be rather fixed in their ideas and women being women and having a good old gossip and chatter kind of plays into their hands. Especially when the blokes are being like the good kids at school, sitting there in quiet contemplation like butter wouldn’t melt….oh yeah right!

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