MUSCAT: Ramadhan for Michelle, an American diplomat, who has been living in Oman for almost four years, is a time to better understand and appreciate the customs and traditions of her Muslim friends and colleagues.
“As a Christian living in this dynamic Islamic country, I have always focused on considering the many ways that religious customs, in particular, are shared amongst people of many different faiths.”
It’s no wonder Michelle started to fast each Ramadhan in solidarity with her Muslim colleagues and friends and shared a sense of bonhomie with them.
“Working in an office where the majority of our team is Muslim, I feel that fasting with them in solidarity has brought us even closer,” Michelle said.
However, her fasting streak is not without a personal touch. It is more of humanitarian.
She has a close Omani friend who is diabetic and like a sister to her. She fasts to support her. It is a kind of understanding the difficulties of fasting and understanding the strength of faith during Ramadhan.
“When I fast during the holy month, not only do I feel more connected to my local hosts who are going through the day hungry — to focus on their spiritual devotion and commitment and to empathise with the feeling of hunger experienced often by those who are less fortunate — but I also take the time to concentrate on my own commitment to self-improvement and self-sacrifice, which I believe helps me to be a more disciplined and focused individual.”
Most of her friends and family are surprised that she does a full dry fast each Ramadhan, not allowing anything to pass through her lips from dawn to sunset. Michelle would wait for the call of prayer each evening, along with her Muslim friends and colleagues, to know when she can break her fast.
“I find the last few minutes to be the most difficult, but it all seems worth when I do hear the ‘adhan’ and reflect on its significance, not least of which is the fact that it is bringing us all together with common thoughts and purpose.”
Of course, as Michelle admits, this year, Ramadhan has been a little different, but the significance remains. As we prepare to celebrate Eid al Fitr, while continuing to adhere to the guidelines and directives to keep all of us safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19, Michelle is thinking of all of her friends in Oman and looking forward to the time when she can celebrate with each other in person again. “Wish all my Omani friends blessed final days of Ramadhan and Happy Eid!”