Melinda Maldonado, Staff Reporter
The Toronto Star, Aug 7, 2013
Days before Eid, a Woodbridge family marks the holy month like millions of others, with a little karate and bangle-jingling thrown in.
Mansoora Chaudhery and her daughter Areej Ahmed, 9, pray during a meal breaking their daytime fast in their home in Woodbridge.
In a matter of minutes, the kitchen went from karate chops to a place for quiet readings of the Qur’an.
When Masroor, 6, and his sister Areej, 9, bounced in Tuesday evening from karate practice, they traded their uniforms — a yellow belt for Masroor, purple for Areej — for a colourful prayer cap from Uzbekistan and a black headscarf.
The siblings traced their fingers, right to left, over Arabic script on the third-last night of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting during daylight hours. Their parents, Mansoora Chaudhery and Mubarak Ahmed, who were born in Quetta, Pakistan, hadn’t eaten in 16 hours.
Chaudhery whipped up basmati rice, chickpea salad, meat patties, vegetable stir fry and yogurt sauce without taking a bite, and gave Masroor instructions in Urdu to blend a banana shake.
“Ramadan gives you the opportunity to re-energize, recharge your faith and reconnect with God,” said Ahmed, who notes that although Areej wants to fast, she’s still too young.
“We have to educate that Ramadan is not just getting hungry.”
Ramadan is about freeing yourself from worldly whims and desires, including food and sex, and becoming closer to God, said Alaa Elsayed, the director of religious affairs at the Islamic Society of North America. “It teaches you how to become a better human being.”
Muslim children ease into fasting for a few hours a day before building up to a full month by age 15 or the onset of puberty, said Elsayed, who is a Sunni Muslim imam. Pregnant or menstruating women, sick people and travellers are exempt from fasting.
In the kitchen, Masroor snatched a date stuffed with a single pistachio, and kept his eye on the clock.
“Five minutes,” he said, waiting for 8:37 p.m., when his parents would break their fast with water and dates. This was followed by prayer, then iftar, the evening Ramadan meal, then a trip to the Baitul Islam mosque in Maple for special Ramadan prayers.
As Ahmadiyya Muslims, they are free to practise their religion in Canada, unlike relatives in Pakistan who, Chaudhery says, are jittery after bomb attacks on two Ahmadiyya mosques in Lahore three years ago killed at least 80 people, including Ahmed’s father.
There are about 30,000 Ahmadis in the GTA and 20,000 more across the country, said Ahmadiyya Muslim Community spokesman J.T. Lone.
Ahmadis believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the sect in 1889, was a subordinate prophet who came to revive the prophet Muhammad’s message. This belief violates a fundamental tenet of Islam for other Muslims, who believe that Muhammad was the last prophet.
Muslim sects may have different interpretations of when Eid falls, but Elsayed says Eid is about Muslims all over the world being united. Elsayed will celebrate Eid Thursday, while Ahmadis will celebrate Friday.
On Friday morning, the family will break their fast, go to the mosque, then visit friends and family through the weekend. “Eid is Christmas to us,” Masroor explained to a reporter.
Eid and weddings are the two occasions where custom dictates being decked out in the finest traditional Pakistani clothes. Chaudhery’s mother, who lives in Ottawa, brought back Eid outfits for the whole family earlier this year on a trip to Pakistan.
Chaudhery laid out a blue organza skirt with hand-embroidered sequins and beadwork, an emerald green tunic, and packages of gem-toned, glitter-encrusted glass bangles.
Those same bangles will announce the arrival of Eid when Chaudhery joins hundreds of other women in prayer at the mosque.
“When you start the prayer, we raise our hands. We then again bring them down, and you hear that sound, the ‘chingles,’ you could say.”