Ramadan Nights in Bahrain

The impact that the Holy Month of Ramdan has on the social fabric of the Bahraini society is something that is worth appreciating and applauding.

Not only does it have the appropriate religious significance, but also an endearing social consequence.

It is during this month that I see the leaders of the country like the Prime Minister HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and the First Deputy Prime Minister HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa  frequently visiting  various majlises, or social gatherings, hosted by Bahraini businessmen and community leaders.

It is during this month that I see a growth of amity and goodwill among various sections of the society interacting at these meets. I am sure even the attacks of miscreants on policemen in some places will not mar the beauty of this special month.

It is also during this Holy Month of Ramdan that I get invited to many Iftar and Ghabga get-togethers in Bahrain. They are often organised by both, Bahraini organisations and also expat organisations.

And my Bahraini friends not only invite me to these social gatherings, but also make sure that I do not feel like an outsider. That is the beauty of the hospitality of Bahrain. And, among other reasons, that is what has captivated me and enamoured me so much so, that I have made this country my home for nearly 35  years.

These Iftar and Ghabga Majlises, or meetings, during Ramadan nights, foster a sense of collectiveness in the Bahraini community that can yield very healthy results for the long term future of Bahrain.

Iftar refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the month of Ramadan, and Suhoor is the early morning meal before beginning the fast again. Ghabga is a light snack or meal somewhere between the two, and is interestingly special to Bahraini community in particular.

Apparently, Ghabga is derived from the word ghoboug, which means eating late at night.

I read that the Bahraini Poet Ali Al-Sharqawi said that these evening gatherings have been a staple of Bahraini life for many years. They include the largest meal that falls in the few hours before fasting begins on the following day during the month of Ramadan.

Al-Sharqawi also expresses: “It has been the custom in Bahrain to plan the ghabga after evening prayers or the taraweeh prayers for over one hour when the stomachs of people who are fasting are  ready to accept more food following the main iftar meal.”

I mentioned my admiration for these meetings because – whether they are early evening or late night – they bring together friends in an informal and cordial manner and prepare them for a fruitful day ahead. I know people attend mosques, listen to special sermons, complete reading the Quran and do several other things that help focus on the one above.

Even though fasting is followed by many religions, I find this voluntary physical deprivation in order to focus on spiritual edification very unique to Islam. , 

With the heat of Bahrain, going higher and higher each day, I am amazed at how my Bahraini friends, with genuine faith, and unshaken dedication are fulfilling this religious act. And I see it being done, not merely out of obligation, but out of sincere and unwavering faith.

As a Christian, I see that the Bible also focuses a lot on fasting. But I see it not being followed with the same dedication that I see in many Muslim friends.

Though not by all, many Christians follow ‘lent’, a 40-day period of fasting and prayer between AshWednesday and Good Friday every year. It is not a mandatory or obligatory religious act. So, I have observed that the commitment to it is very weak. However, I have seen some Christians trying to complete books of the Bible and abstain from several luxuries during this time.

But as I said earlier, the seriousness and sincerity I see among Muslims during Ramadan is simply incredible. It is a reflection of the deep rooted spiritual anchor to which Islam’s wholesome traditions and religious activities are strongly bound.

The faith that sustains us is important for our lives – past, present and future. And I wish all my Muslim friends, in Bahrain and abroad, Ramadan Kareem.

May this be a blessed month.