OP-ED

Ramadan’s Customs and Traditions Vanish with Life Development

National Yemen

An old man reads Quran at the grand mosque

By Tamjid Alkohali

The holy month of Ramadan is here again, which carries a plenty of particulars around the world. It changes the style of the life and turns the day into night. The streets in the day become empty, and very busy with people, shops, markets, and restaurants at night.

All Islamic countries have especial customs and traditions for Ramadan, and they consider them as a part of their inherited culture. Yemen is considered the best model of Ramadan’s customs and traditions in the Arab Muslim world.

Ramadan in the Past

In the beginning of Ramadan, people usually start talking about Ramadan today and Ramadan in the past. What are the differences? How it was in the past?

In the old Sana’a market, a woman named Noria, 55, spoke the sweet days of Ramadan of the past. Life was easy and everything was cheap and available.

“All relatives were gathering on the first day of Ramadan to have the dinner together and then they go to pray, read the holy Quran, and worship God. After that they sit to talk and listen to stories and laugh,” she explained.

Noria misses the days of the past. She emphasized that there are still a few Ramadan traditions, but most of them disappeared and life became noisier.

Religious Rituals for 24 Hours

As everybody in this world knows, Ramadan is a month of worship. People should spend most of the time reading the Quran and praying. Ali who is working in a mosque as an Imam said that there is fast change in society. Ten years ago, the mosque was open 24 hours. After dinner people came to pray  evening prayers and then Taraweeh prayer. After that, they sat to discuss matters of religion and issues in the country, while children learned some Quranic verses.

Ali emphasized that today the number of worshipers has declined, and sometimes the mosque becomes completely free of people.

“People are busy watching hundreds of channels which are working hard in order to attract them through offering serials, programs, and competitions that are different from our culture and not useful at all as well as shopping, parks, and all means of amusement and entertainment,” Ali said.

Recently, watching TV has become a problem in Ramadan, especially with showing pornographic serials. In the past, the serials were purposeful and suitable for our culture but now they contain bold scenes, which are not suitable for the holy month and life in general.

 “I wonder of those who are wasting their time watching non-useful programs, though there still are some good programs even if they are rare,” Ali added.

Children Spread Happiness in Ramadan

Children also had especial traditions in Ramadan. They waited for it to sing special songs while carrying luminous lanterns in their hands.

Araw, a mother of seven boys and girls, explained that it was called Al-Tamasi when children gather in the neighborhoods to sing songs through which they call God for good and for livelihood and families throw them some money from the windows.

“Those children were spreading happiness and vitality in Ramadan’s nights, through watching them from windows,” she added.

Araw emphasized that children today don’t know anything about Al-Tamasi. They replaced it by watching TV and browsing the internet. In addition, many popular games disappeared as a result of cultural and social changes.

Generosity Month

Inviting friends and relatives for dinner in Ramadan is considered the most important Yemeni tradition. However, these visits and invitations have decreased a lot.

Mohammed Al-Alaya, 40, said that cgasing after a living and life requirements make people busy. The deteriorating economic conditions make most of the families stop Inviting their relatives and friends.

“People in the past were more generous especially in this month, but the crisis in which people live today stole the fun of Ramadan,” Al-Alaya added.

Special Dishes in Ramadan

In Ramadan, most of the people, if not all of them, eat special kinds of dishes. The main two dishes are called Al-Shafoot & soup. The first one is made of yogurt and bread or Allhouh (it is like bread, but with different ingredients.) Soup is made of wheat with milk or chicken broth.

Tahani, a housewife, said that in the present time there are a lot of new dishes entering the dinner meal in Ramadan. Some are created by Yemeni women, and some are taken from other countries through watching cooking programs. “Women’s education and TV, books, and websites on the internet led to new things and disappearing old traditions,” she added.

Tahani emphasized that the development of life makes it more interesting and more difficult at the same time. “People’s income is low and life requirements became more, the thing which makes life difficult and complex.”

Choosing Bad Habits  

Professor of Sociology and local expert in his field, Dr. Hamoud Salim, explained that Ramadan is rohani month, in which social relations increase significantly. Because of economic and cultural factors as well as the communications and information revolution, many of rituals and traditions that existed in the past have vanished.

Salim added that the problem is when people replace the positive habits by bad habits, like visits which are reduced because of the emergence of satellite television and the communication revolution.