Sounds of Ramadan that ring out through the ages

While the practice has declined gradually due to the change in people’s sleeping behaviors, the use of new technologies such as alarm clocks, among other reason, some people are still volunteering to keep this tradition alive around the Arab world.  (Getty images)
Updated 18 May 2018
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Sounds of Ramadan that ring out through the ages

  • One of the oldest and most deeply rooted of Ramadan customs is the Mesaharati, in which a volunteer goes around to wake up Muslims during the holy month to eat the suhoor meal before they start their fasting at the Fajr prayer call at dawn. 
  • While the practice has declined gradually due to the change in people’s sleeping behaviors, the use of new technologies such as alarm clocks, among other reason, some people are still volunteering to keep this tradition alive around the Arab world. 

JEDDAH: The Mesaharati, or public waker, is one of the oldest and most deeply rooted of Ramadan customs. The title is given to a person who voluntarily takes it on himself to wake up Muslims during the holy month to eat the suhoor meal before they start their fasting at the Fajr prayer call at dawn. 

Abdul-Muhsen Doom, the mesaharati in Al-Balad’s Ramadan Festival, said that the practice was mainly created because people used to go to bed after Taraweeh prayers every night. 

The Mesaharati's main role was to wake people up for suhoor using his drums while repeating the still-known phrases of “Sabbahak Allah bil ridha wa alnaeem” (May Allah wake you with satisfaction and bliss) and “Ya nayem wahhid Aldayem” (Sleeping, praise the Permanent Allah). 

The Mesaharati would stand under each house window, calling everyone by name until he heard a response before moving to the next house, Doom said. 

“During which, the sound of suhoor cannon was the known sign for all misahratiyah (the plural of mesaharati) to start their rounds around each one’s neighborhood as every neighborhood used to have its own mesaharati chosen by its own residents,” he said. 

When Doom was a child, Amm Yahya Galangi was the mesaharati of his Al-Mathloom neighborhood.

Malak Baeesa, the omdah, or mayor, in Al-Balad, Old Jeddah city, told Arab News that the Mesaharati is one of the most appreciated Islamic traditions of the month of Ramadan. He said that a mesaharati title is an honor, equivalent to being selected as the omdah, that used to be given by the people of a neighborhood to a well-known person among them.

While it had been a popular and actively practiced profession in most Arab countries, the need for a mesaharati gradually declined 40 years ago due to the change in people’s sleeping behaviors, the use of new technologies such as alarm clocks and the development of cities, where it became harder to hear the mesaharati’s voice. 

Yet some people are still volunteering to keep this tradition alive around the Arab world. 

It is believed that the first mesaharati, or drum holder, was Bilal Bin Rabah, one of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions. He used to walk the streets and roads throughout the night to wake people up.

 

Distinctive calls

In a Hadith by the Prophet Muhammad, he said: “Bilal calls the adhan in the night, so eat and drink until Ibn Umm Maktum calls the adhan.” 

However, some say the tradition first appeared in Egypt, where the mesaharati used to roam the streets of Cairo holding a small drum and tapping it with a piece of leather or wood. He was often accompanied by a child holding a lamp to light the way and echo his distinctive calls. 

The mesaharati would call the name of each house owner as he passed by. At the time, the women would wrap a coin in a paper and light it so the mesaharati would be able to find it in the darkness. 

The tradition is practiced in several Muslim countries including Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. Each of these countries has their own mesaharati traditions and songs or prayers that they chant as they walk the neighborhood to wake the people up. 

The mesaharati in Syria, for instance, used to have strong connection with his community. People trusted him to deliver food and money to those whom he knew were in need.

When Ramadan comes to an end and the celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr start, the mesaharati receives gifts of money and food from people to express gratitude for his services during the month. 

“Although the mesaharati is considered a voluntary role, people pay him whatever they can once Ramadan comes to an end, as an Eidyah (Eid gift) during Eid Al-Fitr,” Doom said.

Decoder

Ramadan terms

Mesaharati: The term comes from the word sahoor, which is the pre-dawn meal, the second main meal Muslims have during Ramadan. Suhoor: An Islamic term referring to the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before their fasting starts. Taraweeh: Extra prayers performed by Muslims at night during Ramadan. Hadith: A word that denotes the words and actions of Prophet Muhammad. Eid Al-Fitr: A religious holiday, celebrated by Muslims worldwide. that marks the end of Ramadan.


Kaaba’s replacement cloth fitted in record time

Updated 20 August 2018
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Kaaba’s replacement cloth fitted in record time

  • The work was carried out while pilgrims continued to circumambulate the Kaaba
  • A team of 160 workers carry out the task in record time, while pilgrims continue around them

JEDDAH: It took a team of 160 workers and technicians just three hours to fit the cloth that covers the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque in Makkah, setting a new record, state news agency SPA reported.

Working under the management of Saudi Arabia’s  General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque Affairs, the team actually finished 30 minutes earlier than the allotted time, fitting the Kiswa to the Kaaba.

The new cloth was prepared and transported before Monday’s Fajr prayer to the Grand Mosque.

The Kaaba is 14 meters high and its longest wall is 13 meters wide.

The Kiswa is made of 670 kilograms of silk, 120 kg of gold, and 100 kg of silver.

Every meter of silk was created by 100,000 threads, and the overall weight of the Kiswa is 1,150 kg, produced on 23 modern sewing machines.