Sixty-five years ago, Ramadan happened during the Nakba

Guest contribution by Jumana Al-Qawasmi

On July 8, 1948, Ramadan was just beginning all across the Muslim world. As Palestinian Muslims get ready for Ramadan this year — set to begin July 9, 2013 — we look forward to the usual: the beautiful nightly prayer congregations, the flickering colored lamps, the unimaginable amounts of cooking, and the time to develop our faith, patience, and capacity for introspection.

In the Palestine of 1948, however, Ramadan meant continued expulsions from a homeland and a heritage reaching back countless centuries. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were made refugees between April and June of 1948; thousands more still were forced out of their homes in July and on.

As I fast in training for the coming long days, I can’t help but think back to what it must have been like for my grandfather fleeing his hometown of Barkusia in Al-Khalil. He was only a teenager at the time, barely older than my youngest brothers. My grandfather remembers the townspeople hearing reports of murders and rapes in neighboring towns. These reports often scared Palestinians into running, as it did in my hometown’s case.

The family left before dawn, my grandfather tells me, and before the family could eat suhoor, the last meal eaten before fasting begins at dawn. My grandfather’s family kept moving for a few days, traveling from town to town. Yet, since it was Ramadan, the family also kept fasting though they did not have much on hand to eat. At one point, my grandfather went temporarily blind because he hadn’t had anything to eat for a while. It was only until my great-grandfather got his hands on a bit of animal fat that my grandfather regained his sight.

And then we fast forward to July 2013 and we see a slightly deranged young woman watching the clock inch towards maghrib time. To pass the time, I try to distract myself by looking through The Atlas of Palestine 1948, a book that weighs more than a lamb being ceremoniously fattened for mansaf, trying to trace what might have been my grandfather’s path through Palestine sixty-five years ago.

But this isn’t all to merely lament the effects of the Nakba. We will always remember the injustice committed. Instead, this is to commemorate the patience the Palestinian people had and have. This is to appreciate the incredible faith in Allah Palestinian Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others had, especially in the month of Ramadan. And this is to remind the Palestinians of present and future generations to aspire to the patience and faith (and more) our ancestors had.

This Ramadan of 2013, my grandfather fasts again. But this time, he is no longer a teenager fleeing his hometown. Sixty-five years later, he is almost blind in one eye, smokes like a chimney, and has yet to go back home. This Ramadan, I pay homage to my grandfather’s sixty-five years worth of patience and faith.

Jumana Al-Qawasmi

Jumana Al-Qawasmi is a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago. She authors the personal blog {re}narrativize.

There are 4 comments

  1. bent falasteen

    Beautiful :”(. In sha Allah your grandfather will return to a free Palestine and so will all Palestinians. Tayiya filisteen!! ♥

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