Sunday, July 05, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Eighteen

Ibn Warraq continues his Ramadan musings...

In a follow up to my earlier thoughts on Ramadan TV, figures are out for the number of people watching. According to MarocMétrie the series "Nayda f'douar" broadcast by 2M is at the most watched program over the last four days. On average, across the country, Moroccans watched television for 4 hours a day.


According to the latest report by the audience measurement body MarocMétrie, "Nayda f'douar" the second season of the sitcom "Kenza f'douar", was watched by seven million viewers. The Turkish soap opera "Samihini", dubbed into Darija was in second place with six million viewers.

On Channel One, the Moroccan series "Waadi" attracted 5 million people followed, in second place by the much derided candid camera show."Hamaka" with about three million viewers.

Hamaka has 3 million viewers

Interestingly Channel One (Al Oula) has  25% of the national audience, up from only 17.5% the first few days of Ramadan.

2M has lost much of its audience,  attracting a 38.5% audience share. MarocMétrie says that a large number of Moroccans shun the national television channels and at the start of Ramadan 29% opted to switched to foreign channels. I can't say I blame them.

Nayda f'douar has 7 million viewers

Where are all the djinns during Ramadan?

Late last night, well after Ftour, my friend Richard and I went to a neighbour's house and walked in on a heated discussion. To an outsider it must have sounded like an argument over a referee's decision in a match between Barcelona and Real Madrid. But, as is the way during Ramadan, it was actually a theological discussion - well sort of.


When Richard, who is American and has limited Darija, asked me what was going on, I explained, "They are  discussing where the djnoun have gone."
"Djnoun?"
"Djinns. Djinn singular, djnoun, plural."
He looked at me as if I had gone mad. "They believe in djinns?"
"Then there is the question of devils," I added, and immediately regretted it.
'Right..." Richard nodded and glanced around looking for the door and wondering if it would be best to leave. Instead he turned back to me. 'You're being serious? Devils? Djinns?"

It was a good question and, taking those in the room as a sample, it could be said that belief in spirits like djnoun could be divided into three camps - naam, la and mumkin -  yes, no and maybe. Hamid is in the "la" camp and says they are superstitious figments of our imagination. Abdelfatah is absoulutely convinced that djnoun exist, though he admits he has never encountered one. On the other hand, Karima, who describes herself as a modern educated woman, says she has never believed in djnoun until one night she was sleeping on the terrace above her family home when she swears she saw a huge black djinn "He was at least four metre's tall. He didn't say anything, just looked at me and then went away."
Fatima Zahra (another modern educated woman) laughed, "I slept on our roof one night when it was hot and thought I saw something. In the morning I found that someone had stolen six copper and glass candle holders."


I poured Richard some mint tea and seeing that he was genuinely interested, gave him the abridged version. The Qur'an teaches that Allah has populated the universe with four types of beings: humans, angels, shayāṭīn (devils) and demons or djnoun. Possessing free will, a djinn can either be good or evil. Although only humans are visible, the other beings, including djnoun are not merely imaginary or symbolic: they coexist with humans, guiding and interfering with their efforts to follow the path of Islam. In fact, the djnoun are believed to have similar needs to humans. They eat, drink, procreate and die; they form families, communities and societies. However, their activities are nocturnal, ending at dawn with the muezzin's call to prayer.

The big issue with devils (shayāṭīn) and djnoun that my friends were discussing was, where were they during Ramadan.
"When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained. -" Sahih Bukhari 31:123
Having all the devils chained up sound like a good solution and leaves you with the thought that if you still do something wrong, then it is your fault and not that of an outside evil influence. But as in all these discussions, nothing is that simple.

The djnoun will be back...
Hamid, who knows heaps of weird things, said that he had read a Hadith that stated that only "the rebellious shayāṭīn are chained during Ramadan and as as result there is much less bad behaviour. Committing sins during the month of Ramadhan does not contradict the meaning of the Hadith, he explained, because the Hadith mentions only the rebellious shayāṭīn. And sins could be due to the influence of non-rebellious shayāṭīn. Richard said that was a bit like having a bet both ways.

When it came to the djnoun, it didn't seem to matter that not everyone believed in them, because all my learned friends said no matter if they had gone away during Ramadan, they would be back on Laylat Al Qadr, the "Night of Power", three days before the end of Ramadan. I'm glad we sorted that out!

Talking to Richard as we headed back to my house for Suhoor, he made the interesting observation that the image of djnoun and shayāṭīn in the minds of most non-muslims is the product of Disney versions of Aladdin's lamp or orientalist fantasies spawned by adaptations of 1001 Nights. He thought for a moment and then added, "My parents used to watch a TV show called I Dream of Jeannie".

Putting the djinneya back in the bottle

We found an episode on YouTube, but after five minutes decided that the lamb tagine was ready and Suhoor was our best option. That, and sleep.

Oh, as a footnote, you can buy magic lamps on Ebay but doing so over the internet makes it hard to check if they are in working order. There is nothing worse than getting the wrong djinn... ho hum. Anyway, if you really have money to throw away visit here: Rare Genuine Magic Lamps for Sale


And... if in doubt and you want to be really odd, you can always seek advice from Brother Rahman who claims to have thirty-five years of experience in the study of djnoun! Personally, I suggest you would be better off going to a Gnaoua or Hamadcha Lila and doing a little trance dancing. On the other hand, why not stay at home and watch "Nayda f'douar" on TV2M.

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

Prices in the souq had shot up over Ramadan and when young Noureddine came back with the meat and vegetables he had no change for his grandfather, Jilalli

"There was a time," Grandfather Jilalli said, "when I used to go to the souq with only two dirhams in my pocket and I would come home with all groceries, bread, butter, milk, biscuits, and the newspaper."

Noureddine shook his head. "Not any more, Grandfather. These days there are CCTV cameras everywhere."

Saha Ftourkoum!


See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY ONE        DAY FIVE       DAY NINE          DAY THIRTEEN   DAY SEVENTEEN
DAY TWO       DAY SIX           DAY TEN            DAY FOURTEEN
DAY THREE   DAY SEVEN    DAY ELEVEN    DAY FIFTEEN
DAY FOUR     DAY EIGHT     DAY TWELVE    DAY SIXTEEN

Please feel free to contribute your Ramadan stories, thoughts, observations and photographs. You can contact me via The View from Fez contact page. Just put "Ibn's Diary" in the subject line - Shukran!

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Saturday, July 04, 2015

Ramadan Diary ~ 2015 ~ Day Seventeen

Ibn Warraq continues his Ramadan musings...

While acknowledging that many of my friends are caring and compassionate people who give to the needy during Ramada, and the rest of the year, it does seem that for some that sadaqah does not extend to sub-Saharan migrants.

There are hundreds of sub-Saharan refugees in Fez as well as a number of Syrian and other refugees from war zones. Many of them are Muslims and observing Ramadan. But who provides them with Ftour and do they feel welcome visiting the mosques?


The situation of migrants in Morocco is difficult and that while racism is still a major factor, there have been encouraging moves to change things. Back in September 2013, a government-appointed human rights body issued a seminal report that detailed a series of clashes between migrants and Moroccan police.

The report  elicited an immediate response from HM King Mohammed VI, who demanded that the government develop a migration policy. The result was as exceptional as it was unexpected. In as profound policy change, a year-long regularisation period started in January 2014.

Since then the Moroccan government has provided more than 18,000 migrants with legal residency status in the country for at least a year. But, it was a one-time period that closed in December, and whether new avenues to gain legal residency will open remains unclear.

"Ramadan is about helping others" -Somali refugee

Ramadan spirit appears to be a little thin on the ground for the migrants in Tangier. In recent days there has been a wave of arrests. It began Monday, June 29, with the eviction of squatters in the Boukhalef district of Tangier. On Friday, a police operation was carried out in another district of the city, near the airport. As a result, many of the migrants are reported to have taken refuge in neighbouring districts. There are also around 400 migrants currently in the forests near the Boukhalef neighbourhood.

Most migrants in Morocco live there illegally but approximately 30,000, from 116 different countries, applied during the regularisation process. The bulk of those approved came from Senegal, followed by Syria, Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire. The government automatically granted the Syrian applicants legal status in tacit recognition of their refugee status.

Sub-Saharan Africans and Syrian refugees  remain a visible but marginalised part of Moroccan society and during Ramadan (and beyond) we should all do something to extend a welcome and give a helping hand. Or failing that, give to a charity that assists them. According to one British refugee charity 150 dirhams (10 UK pounds) will feed a Syrian refugee for 30 days.

Four Seasons Marrakech advertises Ftour for 320 dirhams

Having Ftour at the Four Seasons in Marrakech costs 320 dirhams. That amount would provide a day's supply of food for sixty refugees or feed one Syrian refugee for sixty days, twice the length of Ramadan.


In countries such as Pakistan there is a strong tradition of actively getting out and providing food and clothing to poor rural families. In cities like Islamabad middle class families provide food every afternoon to poor neighbours. It is not unusual to see a line of people form up just before Iftar and then to be given food by the head of the household.

A lack of charity and international aid causes a vacuum which extremist groups are happy to fill. In Pakistan, groups such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (the charity wing of Lashkar-e-Taiba) are banned, yet still manage to provide a huge amount of support for the poor and displaced. The outcome is increased support for the group.

 Jamaat-ud-Dawa advertising on open display during Ramadan

Vandalism continues

Walking past the bronze statues of lions in the centre of the Ville Nouvelle in Fez, a local policeman told me that Daesh (ISIS) jihadists had destroyed a famous statue of a lion outside the museum in the Syrian city of Palmyra.


I checked online and came across confirmation of the vandalism from Syrian historian Abdelkarim Maamoun, who was quoted as saying the statue, known as the Lion of al-Lat, was an irreplaceable piece and was  destroyed last week.

"Daesh  (ISIS) members on Saturday destroyed the Lion of al-Lat, which is a unique piece that is three metres (10 feet) tall and weight 15 tonnes," Abdelkarim said. "It's the most serious crime they have committed against Palmyra's heritage."

The limestone statue was discovered in 1977 by a Polish archeological mission at the temple of Al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess, and dated back to the first century CE.

Mr Abdelkarim said the statue had been covered with a metal plate and sandbags to protect it from fighting "but we never imagined that Daesh would come to the town to destroy it."

Daesh captured Palmyra, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site, from government forces on May 21, prompting international concerns about the fate of the city's antiquities. So far, the city's most famous sites have been left intact, though there are reports that Daesh has mined them.

Time for some good news

Fez's Qaraouiyne university is the oldest in the world and is the only Arab university founded by a woman. Now it is to become an antidote to Daesh and their perverted beliefs


Set up in 859 and still fully active, a royal decree will now make it into a hub for studies on contemporary Islam and a cultural bulwark against Daesh (ISIS). The university acts as a benchmark for moderate-leaning, top-quality education in religious studies, history, jurisprudence and Islamic philosophy. The royal decree, the most recent of a number of measures launched to reassert the Moroccan character of the religion linked to the Malakite school, which includes a ban on imams taking positions on political and union issues, is now focusing on training.

Under royal auspices, the university will remain independent from the economic and academic point of view but will have to draw up a number of reforms to promote Islam, develop research on the text of the Qur'an and study Moroccan history and doctrine in greater depth, focusing especially on comparative jurisprudence. The step is an attempt to come apace with the contemporary world with further, modern training for religious authorities - from the ulema to mosque preachers. For this reason, the Fez university will be called upon to form a network with such training institutions as Morocco's Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation and the Royal Institute of History Studies.

Please feel free to contribute your Ramadan stories, thoughts, observations and photographs. You can contact me via The View from Fez contact page. Just put "Ibn's Diary" in the subject line - Shukran! 

Another of Hamid's moderately funny jokes...

Abderrahim and his three friends meet for Iftar in Casablanca. They had not seen each other since leaving school some thirty years earlier.

When Abderrahim went outside to have a smoke, his three friends began talking about how successful their sons had become.

The first man said his son studied economics, became a banker and was so rich he gave his best friend a 5000 USD for his birthday.

The second man said his son was a pilot, started his own airline and became so rich he gave his best friend a brand new Harley Davidson.

The third man said his son became an engineer, started his own development company, and was so rich he gaved his best friend a month long vacation in Australia.

When Abderrahim returned from having his cigarette he asked what the intense discussion had been about. So the three men said they had been talking about how successful their sons had become.

"And what about your son?" asked the first man

Abderrahim shrugged and confessed that his son had not completed his university degree and was not in work.

The three men commiserated with him. "You must be very disappointed," one of them said.

"Not at all," Abderrahim replied, "he's a friendly chap and everybody likes him. Why, only last week, for his birthday, his friends gave him 5000 USD, a Harley Davidson and a month long holiday in Australia."

Saha Ftourkoum!

See Ibn's Ramadan Dairy
DAY ONE        DAY FIVE       DAY NINE          DAY THIRTEEN
DAY TWO       DAY SIX           DAY TEN            DAY FOURTEEN
DAY THREE   DAY SEVEN    DAY ELEVEN    DAY FIFTEEN
DAY FOUR     DAY EIGHT     DAY TWELVE    DAY SIXTEEN

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