Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/16/2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic
Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major. He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. His family is from Sudan and they are Muslim. Both he and his twin brother were educated in international schools. He speaks Arabic and English.
Context: I was talking with the informant about traditions and rituals his family has.
Item: “Yeah so basically for once a year for one month, all of Sudan is fasting for 30 days. We fast from sun up to sun down. You’re not allowed to drink water, no food, can’t have any sexual intercourse. Some people say you’re supposed to stay away from certain pleasures, but that stuff’s impossible. So some people are like, you should never curse during Ramadan as that breaks your fast. I don’t really subscribe to that notion, but some people definitely take it a lot more strict than others.
The point of Ramadan is that you be in solidarity with unfortunate people around the world who go through not eating on a daily basis so we get a better idea of their pain and their suffering. We’re supposed to also develop better appreciation for the stuff we have, so you appreciate the fact that you can come home every day and there’s a meal waiting for you. In a place like Sudan, you take that really seriously during Ramadan.
At the end of Ramadan you have a very large feast, on Eid. You go and meet up with pretty much your entire family and have a large feast and pretty much eat whatever you want. We also sacrifice a sheep, so you kill a sheep and then eat it. And, uh, growing up I watched the killing of the sheep at my grandma’s house and it’s really gruesome by the way. So they throw it up there and slit it’s throat and there’s a ton of blood and they’re just tearing apart the insides. I’ve seen so many sheep stomachs just laying outside of homes, it’s ridiculous. There’s no like recycle process in Africa. So you eat lamb; there is a Qa’ranic basis for that, but I don’t know what it is. There’s some story of a guy that sacrifices a sheep instead of his son and it might even be in the Bible but I’m not really sure.
Typically, the kids got a lot of money from relatives, which was dope, or got presents, but I usually got a lot of money. This is a great time, there’s lots of family reunions and a week of from school. So Ramadan goes back 11 days every year. The next, like, six to eight years are going to be the toughest for Ramadan since it falls in the summer and is moving earlier. The days are longer and they’re super hot and it’s really tough. Anyways, one other thing is you’re kind of obligated to eat at sundown. It’s considered a sin if you don’t eat immediately, you can’t wait to finish up your video game, you gotta eat right away”.
Analysis: The informant, although away from home for the past three years, still continues to embrace the Muslim period of Ramadan and all the sacrifices with it. Although it is undoubtedly a struggle for them while in the U.S., the importance of religion to their lives outweighs all other concerns. Especially in Sudan, with the extremely high unemployment and poverty levels, Ramadan is a serious time where exceptions are not accepted.
The fast does not extend only to food, like in some other religions (lent in Catholicism). It also applies to other aspects of the body and spirit. In this way, it tests self-control to a much greater extent to bring about greater self-awareness and control for the practitioners.
With regards to the sacrifice of the sheep, the informant is referring to the story involving Abraham and Ishmael, in which Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son to God. God spares Ishmael and a sheep is sacrificed instead. The sacrifice of the sheep seems to occur in many instances in Islamic countries (at graduations and other large and meaningful events).