A journey through religions and their cultures.
Celebrating Eid with a cake, a shave and a fornicate; I readied myself for the colossal sigh of relief to release itself from my lungs and ricochet triumphantly around the room. No matter how carefully I tuned my ears however, no such sound showed itself. It appeared that in my month of relative isolation, breaking my fast had become simply something I just did, as opposed to something I enjoyed.
During this monstrosity of a month, a colleague of mine who was also participating in this mass fast told me, circa day two, that she felt “great” and “already cleansed”. It was only my malnourishment which kept me from asking her to kindly fuck in the direction of off. What do you mean you feel great? How can you? It was only day two and I was already struggling to form sentences and I had become so shaky that with the right ingredients in my hands, I would have likely produced a perfect milkshake.
After initially breaking my fast with my good pals Sophie and Gemma, I found myself for the majority of the month instead just carrying around a sandwich in a bag, ready for the Sun to hide itself behind the hills. While I now understood the hardship my fellow creatures in impoverished Countries must go through every day for their entire lives, I was unfortunately missing another important part of the ethos, that being to bring families and friends together.
With this in mind and with only two days left before Eid and my successful completion of Ramadan, I decided to join my new friends at the Mosque to break our fast. After the 7pm prayers, with another hour before Iftar, I scoured the supermarkets in search of succulent and seasonal treats. Or more accurately, I went to a Deli counter and bought the only relatively Middle-Eastern snacks I could think of. My lack of relative culture was directly responsible for the Bhajis, Pakoras and Samosas I would turn up with.
Although I was slightly giddy to be finally eating with others, I was saddened by the fact my female colleague wouldn’t be joining us. It was she who had helped organise this evening, and due to her gender, she couldn’t even take part. My naivety and poor peripheral vision had caused me to miss the lack of oestrogen in the Mosque on previous visits, so her non-attendance came as a surreal surprise. I understand the biological differences between male and females, but I can’t understand what this has to do with participation in a religion or organisation. If Religion is our way of reaching God, why should men be awarded a higher rung on the ladder just because they have an outy rather than an inny? Personally, my penis has never been a point of achievement in my life, and even if it had, I wouldn’t accept any special treatment because of it, no matter how magnificent and spectacular and fully functional it definitely was.
As the sun started to lose it’s strangle hold on the day and the shadows began to engulf my world, I awaited the arrival of my colleagues Father who had kindly offered to escort me into Iftar.
Confused by the inflection, I hobbled along with my shopping bag of goodies.
“Hi” I said without an intonation “How are you? Are you hungry yet?”
A big smile drew itself across his face.
“Yes I am, ready for this to be all over”.
I breathed a sigh of relief, finally, someone who wasn’t enjoying this torture. It was nice to finally not feel weird.
“The only thing is” he continued “I’ve lost quite a bit of weight so I’m worried I’ll put it back on, I really don’t want to as I feel quite good at the moment”.
Now I’m a skinny slip of a lad, and when I was a vegan for two weeks several years ago, I managed to lose a further two stone. This month however had caused me to put on a ¼ of a stone. The laws of physics had some explaining to do.
Making our way into the back of the prayer room, we removed our shoes and entered a back room. The floor was lined with black sheeting and there were around 50 plates arranged on the ground. The room was alive with fruit, water and other titillating treats.
As my eyes began to salivate, I was accosted by an outstretched hand.
“Hi there, how are you?”
“Rob’s doing a religion thing” My guide intercepted “He’s joining lots of religions”
“I see, so you joined lots of religions and you’ve decided Islam is the right one?”
Well, this suddenly got awkward. I then had to explain that I was still doing the journey and this was just my current stop.
As the room began to fill with more and more people, I sat down at a plate and looked for things to fill it with. Being a vegetarian meant choosing between fruit or chicken was a fairly simple task, but one that was compromised when my plate was loaded with poultry while my head was turned.
“No matter”, I thought “I can pick it out, I’m sure they didn’t mean to mess me about”.
As the clock struck sun down, the feast began. Conversation was traded for tastes and not a single person raised their head above their shoulders. We were here to eat, and eat we would.
As I picked around the chicken, waiting for someone to offer a story to the group to break the silence, my fellow feasters began to jump to their feet and walk towards the prayer room.
During this month, I had prayed that prayer would make more sense to me; however, the prayer hadn’t worked. As this month was coming to end, I decided to pray to a god of my own creation, a God I could relate to. This God would promote equality, kindness and reason. S/he would be the kind of God who would wipe his feet before entering a room, the kind of God who would reward honest enquiry and questioning, rather than just blind faith and obedience. Effectively, this God would be me, if I was possessed of Super Powers. I wondered if really, that’s the God of every one? The kind create a kind God, and the hateful create a hateful God.
After 30 more minutes of prayer, with no sign of food but an all too familiar feeling of “oh dear, I think I’m going to faint”, I gathered my shoes and went in search of chips.
The next day, being the last day of Ramadan, I invited my good pals over for a feast. As I watched the sunset for the last time, over a table filled with a Northerners attempt at Middle Eastern cuisine, surrounded by the five friends I could rustle up at short notice and a dog, I thanked God I wasn’t a Muslim, it was bloody hard work.