Ramadan in South Africa: When Communities Come Together

Ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims in South Africa wait for the Maan Kykers to spot the moon. The Afrikaans word “Maan Kykers”, literally means “moon watchers”. The Maan Kykers meet at one of Cape Town’s beautiful high peaks to determine whether Ramadan or Eid is upon us. They’re the first to inform the Muslim community whether Tarawee prayers and Sehri will be observed for the next lunar month. Their confirmation message spreads all over the country.

A sense of piety floats around all Muslim households in the country. Social media platforms are filled with messages spreading hadith and Ramadan greetings. People head to mosques to perform the first Tarawee prayers. For the first night of Tarawee prayers most Masjids are packed. The buzz of children is clearly there, as it is a chance for them to run around with friends at the Masjid boundaries.

Communities are filled with warmth and happiness, not to mention the aroma of deep fried food and all other unhealthy assortments that come with breaking the fast. During the days of Apartheid, the ruling government tried to keep all races segregated. That meant that Muslims would generally stay in close proximity to one another. Not much of that has changed. Muslims still stay close to a Masjid and as a result, the diet of most is similar. Neighbours strolling in the streets moments before it is time to break the fast quickly sending a plate with delectable goodies for those in their immediate surroundings, are a common feature.

Challenges in the holy month

There are a number of challenges that Ramadan comes with. Sadly, after a few days into this blessed month, the mosques start emptying. The Safs for Tarawee shorten up until the final ten nights where it picks up again. Suhoor currently is a challenge for any Muslim in South Africa. South Africa is right in the middle of its coldest time of the year.

It is not as bad as winters in the northern hemisphere however. But for the average South African, who is used to warmth, winter brings with it a cold that chills South Africans up at 5 a.m. eating and performing Fajr prayers. South Africa is in the middle of an energy crisis which has caused rolling blackouts for specific times when the energy grid is strained. As a result, this has been dubbed as load shedding by the country’s energy provider. This poses a huge problem for cooking and keeping warm.

Eating healthy is incredibly difficult in Ramadan. The elders are used to having fried food, carbs, sugar and baked goodies as part of their usual Ramadan diet. They make up for being unable to eat during the day, with the unhealthiest foods at night.

Pass times

Walking around a shopping mall and purchasing treats to eat are a favourite pass time for families in this month. The malls, shops and roads are packed during the weekends with friends and families all looking to pass time. But when it’s time for prayer, all that stops, and prayers are observed.

Johannesburg particularly is known for the youth playing football after Tarawee on weekends. Young people take to the indoor football courts every Friday and Saturday night and enjoy a night of heated football for long hours before heading home for a few hours of sleep and Suhoor.
The best part about Ramadan comes as Eid dawns closer. Work places become accommodating, and there is just a superb tolerance from majority as traditional Ramadan and Eid practices are carried out.

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