Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ramadan in Seoul, bridging the cultural gap from dormitory to workstation

I was cooking in common kitchen at the international house located in Dehagno, Seoul, one of my Chinese friend, offered me to taste her food, as usual we use to do in our common kitchen. The international house has students from several countries and obviously from multiple cultural backgrounds. I replied that I am observing fast so I can’t taste now but after sun sets only. She curiously asked me a series of questions concerning fast and the Ramadan. This is a new culture and environment for me so her questions brought little bit anxiety but didn’t bother me. In background of her questions, I was thinking how we are eager to learn each other despite cultural differences. Thanks to the common kitchen, probably, this is the place where we interact with each other and taste multi-cuisine. In Indian plural society, where I born and brought up, is a mosaic of cultures, religions and languages, in spite of our cultural differences, this type of incidents never happened. We learn rule of the game in the institutional setting in the country and gain skills to respect, defend and criticize each other. Probably, in this sense India is the best laboratory for showing unity in diversity.

These type of incidents take place around us, even though, in cosmopolitan city like Seoul, which shows lack of awareness across the cultures, in the same way, as I was unaware about the rich cultural heritage and tradition of Korea before landing here. As a student, it is our duty and responsibility to exchange our thoughts regarding our cultural heritage and tradition to bridge the gap.

Ramadan is the ninth month of Islamic lunar calendar. Islamic lunar calendar has 12 lunar months in a year of about 354 days. In almost all the religions there are concept of fasting but in diverse way. However, in Islam fasting is obligatory and it’s the fourth pillar of Islam. Firstly Iman; faith or believe on oneness of God and the finality of the prophet hood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), secondly Salah; offering daily five time prayers, thirdly Zakah; charity of 2.5 percent of earned income, fourthly Fasting, which is topic of discussion here and finally pilgrimage to Makkah for those who can afford.

Fasting is done in the month of Ramadan. In Islam all the basic pillars are derived from holy Quran, a revealed book on Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him); and Hadith, recording of his saying and deeds. This month is pious due to many reasons to Muslims including revelation of holy Quran in this month. Holy Quran says “Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an as a guide to mankind also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spent it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.” (Quran 2:185)

It is ordained in the second year of prophet’s migration to Madeenah, means in 2nd Hijri. Hijri is an Islamic calendar started with migration of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) to Madeenah. During fast everything is prohibited to consume during days from sun rise to sun set. Holy Quran says “seek what Allah hath ordained for you and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears” (Quran 2:187)

Fasting has multi-fold benefits from psychological, spiritual to medical. It is extremely useful for acquisition of taqwa (piety). It suppresses lowly desire and provides feeling for poor and hunger engender. It provides nearness to almighty, acts as a tool of acquiring politeness and cultivates good manners. A numbers of medical studies reveal benefit of fasting. It is useful in weight management, for rest of digestion track and for lowering lipids. It improves health and stamina against the general believes that it causes weakness.

The fast is ended with a big celebration, called ‘Eid ul-Fitra’. In that day, Muslims wear their nicest cloth and offer Eid ul-Fitra prayer in mosque or Eidgah. After Eid prayer they greet and hug each other by saying “Eid Mubarak”.

Korean society which is known for their hospitality, therefore I am sure that they would extend support towards people who are in fast during Ramadan. Here are some ways to interact with them in this month of fast. It should be avoided to ask for party or staying late during Ramadan. It would be better for them, if they open their fast with family and friends and attend religious congress ions. And of course they shouldn’t be invited for lunch, however in Korean perspectives late dinner will be acceptable (after sun sets only). They should be provided some ease in doing physical as well as mental works if possible. It would be better to avoid trips or parties in this month as much as possible. In Islam alcohols are absolutely prohibited so there is no need to mention about it.

In Korean Universities teachers could also extend some ease to Muslim students. However, most of the Korean Universities’ professors are well versed with multi cultural societies based on their diverse backgrounds. Thanks to the Korean education system which hires not only the best minds but the diverse minds educated from east to west. However, there is special need for due consideration to those who works in science and engineering laboratory.

I wish this Ramadan will enrich human soul by bringing piety, politeness, nearness to almighty and expand peace across the Globe.


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Anonymous said...

i live in south korea.i sow many uzbekistan woman get married to korean boy.when uzbek woman live here she ate pig meet,she said to us we are muslim.so when i ask why you eat pig meet,she answer me it's no problem.


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