USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘muslim’
Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Eid and Indonesian Cemeteries

Main Piece (direct transcription):

S: “In Indonesia, When Ramadan, or the thirty days of fasting has past, Eid is the last day.  On Eid, it’s tradition to go to the mosque in the morning, and after the mosque, you go directly to the cemetery where all your relatives are.  Sometimes, in my case, some of my relatives are in different cemeteries so we’ll go to the first cemetery, and then the next.  It’s tradition to go to the cemetery and bring water, food, and flowers.  We bring gallons of water and water bottles, and then we open the water bottle and pour it over the grave to hydrate the dead and feed them since it’s Eid, and it’s the last day of fasting.  We also put the food near the headstones.  The headstones look a little different than traditional American headstones.  Even though it’s important to bring flowers and such on other occasions to the cemetery, it’s especially important to bring these things on Eid after going to the mosque.”

Me: “Can you describe what the headstones look like?”

S: “They’re not very large.  In America, it’s really funny because in cemeteries, the bodies are very spread apart, and very far from each other, but in Indonesia, they’re very, very close together.  What would be two burial sports in America would be around six to eight in Indonesia.  They are VERY close together.”

 

Context: I was skyping my friend S, who is a student at University of Seattle and went to middle and high school with me in Albuquerque.  She is half Indonesian from her mother’s side and grew up with both Muslim and Catholic faith.  I was asking her about her about Indonesian traditions and folklore since she’s visited the country regularly to see her Indonesian family, and I hadn’t really heard anything about Indonesian folklore before.  Since her Muslim faith is closely intertwined with her Indonesian heritage, she told me that she had a lot of traditions and stories that reflected both Indonesia and Muslim faith in her family.

 

My thoughts: I like this piece because it not only gives insight to Muslim faith and their traditions after Ramadan, but also about how Indonesian culture treats life after death, and their loved ones who have passed on.  She told me this through her experience from visiting Indonesia during Ramadan, which I think is really special because she has first-hand experience with this tradition during Eid.  I thought that her description of the cemeteries and the closeness of the graves in Indonesia were helpful to envision what the actual event is like, and she later told me that she thinks it symbolizes the closeness of Indonesian culture, and how Indonesian individuals really like being close to one another, and forming a close community.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Proper Attire for a Muslim Wedding

The informant is a 58-year old woman from Trinidad, who has lived in the United States for 45 years. She was raised by her parents in Trinidad and lived in a house with her parents, grandparents, and nine siblings. She attended primary school, and then began working as a housekeeper and nanny. She loves cooking, mainly without recipes or set amounts of any ingredients, having learned her recipes “from my mom and aunts and from trial and error.” The following is what she said when I asked about her step daughter’s wedding a few years ago, of which I was in attendance.

 

Informant: “Abby’s wedding was a big one. Oh gosh, it feels so long ago now!”

Interviewer: “It was beautiful!”

Informant: “It was…”

Interviewer: “Do you remember going dress shopping with mom and me before? Can you tell me about it?”

Informant: “Yes, yes. Well for a Muslim wedding you need to have the proper dress. It is not like American weddings where anything you wear is fine. Because if you come to the Muslim wedding and you are dressed improperly, you may be asked to leave. And more than that, it is important to the bride and groom that you wear the proper clothes.”

Interviewer: “What would be improper to wear?”

Informant: “Something short, anything that shows a woman’s legs would be improper. Respect—modesty—is very very important in Muslim religion and culture.

Interviewer: “I understand. Can you tell me more about where we went to get the outfits for Abby’s wedding?”

Informant: “We went to Devon Avenue, a whole street of Indian stores, and we went into the best one to buy a saree. You tried on so many! They all looked so cute on you. We picked a colorful one, I can’t remember if it was purple or blue…

Interviewer: “It was purple!”

Informant: “Yes, it was. And then for your mom we got a green and maroon one.”

Interviewer: “Does anyone wear black sarees? Or white ones?”

Informant: “No. Everyone, at weddings is supposed to wear colored sarees. That is what’s done at weddings. The varna—that means color—means something always! Red is for the bride. Abby wore red. Colorful sarees make for a happier, more festive wedding.

 

Thoughts:

It doesn’t say anywhere in the Quraan that guests at a Muslim wedding are required to wear colorful sarees, or sarees at all for that matter. But it is a custom—a rule, almost—that guests do so. This reflects the modesty of the culture that is expected and has continued to be important to the Muslim people, especially in rituals. While all Muslims do not dress modestly all the time, it is expected that they do so when weddings and other religious rituals take place.

The colorfulness of the sarees at the wedding ceremony, aside from making photos beautiful and bright, makes the ceremony a very festive event. Interestingly, my informant told me that red is often the color of the bride in Muslim weddings, versus the Christian and Jewish white-dress custom. Red is bright and bold; it symbolizes fertility. It is fitting that this would be the color a bride wears on her wedding day, if what she wears is to symbolize the step she is embarking on in her life.

Customs
Foodways
Holidays

A Pakistani Iftar Staple: Fruit Chaat

Context: Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. Healthy adult Muslims will fast from dawn to sunset for thirty days, and it is a time of greater spirituality, awareness, charity, and family. The informant is a Pakistani Muslim who grew up in Saudi Arabia, England, and Pakistan, and married and settled in Southern California. Here she relates a recipe for a staple of the Iftar (fast-breaking meal) table in her household, fruit chaat.

“It’s…well, ‘chaat‘, the word ‘chaat‘, it just means like a…like a little snack, and there are all sorts of chaat, so like you can have spicy chaat or dahi [yogurt] chaat…so anyway, in our house, that was the one thing we always had to have. Like it was dates, scunj’veen [homemade limeade], pakore [spicy batter-fried potatoes], and fruit chaat. Sometimes my dad would try to introduce new things into the mix, like samose…and they were always left at the end of it, like orphans. Somehow over those thirty days we never got tired off the same menu. And we still don’t.

The best fruit chaat has to have pomegranate seeds in it and amrood [guava]. ”

Though the end product may vary considerably depending on what fruits are available/in season, a person’s personal preferences, etc., the basic recipe is as follows:

1 large apple, 2 bananas, 1 large pear, 1 large peach/nectarine, 1/2 cup guava, all sliced; 1 cup red grapes, halved; 1/2 cup pomegranate; enough orange juice to “make the fruit float”; and sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Combine in a bowl. Serve chilled.

Analysis: The informant says the main reason this dish was/is such a favorite is because it is “refreshing”; after a a long, sometimes hot day, the sugar in the fruit would  boost a fasting person’s blood sugar and put them in a sweeter mood. The informant says her family almost never ate dinner, just iftaar, so having a good variety of healthy food at the table was important since they would eat so little the whole day.

The informant further relates that because certain fruits, like pomegranates and guavas, are seasonal. expensive, or both, she has taken to incorporating other fruit occasionally: strawberries, oranges, pineapple, blueberries, etc., depending on availability. I think this shows the adaptability of this simple dish: it started out as a bare-bones dish with the most basic, most common and inexpensive  fruit included, and then as she found that her native fruits were harder to come by, she incorporated more “Western” fruit that certainly would not have been available in her native Pakistan at the time she was growing up. And yet it still serves the same purpose: to lighten one’s mood and restore “sugar” levels in the body after a long day without food or water. And the informant insists that she never makes or serves it outside the holy month of Ramadan, even though, since the Islamic calendar is lunar, the time of the month changes every year and what fruits are available each year also changes.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Seven Sisters

Once there were seven sisters and when it came time for marriage, the proposed sister decided to runaway for she did not want to be married. When her sisters saw her escaping, they followed her one-by-one and when the first runaway fell in a well, the other six followed. The constellation therefore shows the seven sisters in the well (cluster)

Indian stories, these were collected from a nomad camel driver named Haleh in the Thar desert in Rajasthan (he was Muslim, his village was near the Pakistani border). Haleh spoke only Marwari and his words were translated and related by Mayuri Bhandari. This story relates the creation of the star constellation known in North America as “the Big Dipper”. In this story, the well is the four star, square cluster (occupied by four of the sisters) and the tail is the line of the remaining three sisters waiting to throw themselves in it.

Customs
Festival
Foodways
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Starting Ramadan

My informant describes how he learned to begin the religious fast of Ramadan, according to his Islamic faith:

    “So, every day, before you begin your fast at Ramadan, you have to start, um, traditionally with a sugar date and then a glass of milk, because that’s supposedly what the prophet Mohammed ate, because it gives you enough filling  and enough strength, for the smallest amount of food. And so you begin with that and no other, so to sum up, then you fast the day.”

My informant observes the Islamic fast of Ramadan, which is observed in accordance with the teachings of Mohammed. He described how he and his family have always observed it in this way, and how it carries a special religious significance for him.

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