Ramadan greetings past and present |
Arab News - 20 July, 2012
Author: Maha N. Mufti
While we send each other Ramadan greetings by BlackBerry, WhatsApp, Facebook and mobile text messages, as well as some emails with pretty Ramadan pictures, very few Ramadan greetings are communicated verbally over the phone, let alone face to face. Some messages even come across as rather impersonal. It is rather sad, and most of us are guilty of this trend.
This got me thinking: how has communication technology changed our interaction with each other, as compared to say, 50 or 60 years ago? Despite the great advantages, there are some social drawbacks to our modern ways. How? Well, people are just too busy, too much in a hurry, or too preoccupied with their complicated lives, to make time for social obligations. So it is not a stretch to say that technology has some negative impact on the social niceties and traditions. Many find it much easier to just send out a text message to multiple contacts, than picking up the phone to call an aunt or a cousin and actually have a conversation. On the other hand, to be fair, other factors are culpable besides the Internet and smartphones. Saudi Arabia’s accelerating population growth, expansion of cities, citizen’s migration from small hometowns to more prosperous areas, and international travel for study or work, have all had an impact and changed our life styles and traditions, including social interaction on more personal and physical levels.
Last week I asked my grandmother, who is from Madinah, about how people greeted each other during the holy month of Ramadan back in her day. Now keep in mind back in the thirties, forties and fifties, Saudi Arabia was still eons behind the first world in utilizing available technology.
Few families had cars, telephones were scarce, and they didn’t have television until the early sixties. At the time, people who owned radios were seen as very modern and even some considered radios sacrilege and the work of the devil until they got used to them.
So, having no means of technical communication, the women of the community in Madinah would start visiting each other starting from the month of Rajab, which is two months preceding Ramadan, and considered a sacred month in the Hijri calendar.
Not having telephones to call in advance before paying a visit, they would either send one of the kids to their neighbors’ or relatives’ houses to announce their intention of coming over. It was normal for guests to show up unexpectedly at your door, at any time of the day. So the women of the household had to be always ready to receive them.
Men on the other hand, would exchange greetings for the advent of Ramadan at the Prophet’s Mosque as they pass each other by before or after prayers.
Men like my grandfather and great-grandfather who were merchants, and who all knew each other, would drop by each other’s shops that surrounded the holy mosque to exchange greetings and good wishes for the holy month.
Those who lived abroad as my parents did in the sixties and seventies, could not communicate with their families via telephone. International calls between Saudi Arabia and other countries were not available for ordinary households. They had to write letters to their families many weeks in advance in order to wish them a blessed Ramadan. Predictably, they did not receive communications in return until way after Ramadan and Eid.
Thankfully, now we can happily communicate with our loved ones living abroad through so many technological channels that make their distance easier to bear.
However, as much as we have a lot to be grateful for in how the Internet and modern communications technologies have made life so much easier for all of us around the globe, perhaps they have also created some distance between people who live in the same country, city or neighborhood.
So go on, pick up the phone and let that forgotten relative or friend hear your voice, and wish them a blessed Ramadan. Better still, visit your elders, and make them happy to see you in this holy month.