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.


King Salman’s support vital to national heritage achievements

The program aims to protect, promote and develop cultural heritage and make it part of the life and memory of citizens. (Supplied)
Updated 17 October 2018
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King Salman’s support vital to national heritage achievements

  • The Saudi leadership made key decisions to protect antiquities and historical sites
  • Saudi Arabia aims to conduct awareness campaigns, establish museums and develop them in a modern way to attract citizens and visitors

JEDDAH: The achievements made in Saudi Arabia’s national heritage sector, and the prizes and awards that have been won as result, are thanks to the support and efforts of King Salman, said Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH).
His comments came as the king received the Sharjah International Award for Cultural Heritage, which was awarded in recognition of the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques cultural heritage program.
King Salman oversaw the creation of the antiquities and heritage sector 50 years ago and stood firmly against the elimination or extinction of archaeological and heritage sites, Prince Sultan said, and has made historical and important decisions to protect antiquities since the era of the late King Saud.
This support culminated in the adoption of the innovative Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques for the Care of Cultural Heritage program, implemented by the commission to bring about a qualitative shift in projects and programs devoted to national cultural heritage.
Prince Sultan said: “The award is a result of King Salman’s follow-up and support to the program, which the SCTH and our team have translated into projects and initiatives carried out in cooperation with highly professional partners, in order to preserve, restore and develop the national heritage and make it a reality that connects citizens to their country’s history and heritage.”
He said the SCTH has built upon the great efforts of the institutions that preceded it in taking care of the nation’s antiquities, as well as individual efforts to preserve national heritage.
“Today, we reap the fruits of these efforts: The culture we have learnt from King Salman and previous leaders, which has taught us to complete the work and loyalty of all those who built and achieved before us,” he said.
Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, a member of the Federal Supreme Council and ruler of Sharjah, announced that the Sharjah International Award for Cultural Heritage had been awarded to the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques Program for the Care of Cultural Heritage during a ceremony on April 22, 2018.
The program aims to protect, promote and develop cultural heritage and make it part of the life and memory of citizens. It also conducts awareness campaigns, establishes museums and develops them in a modern way to attract citizens and visitors, prepares Islamic historical sites to welcome visitors, and preserves culturally important buildings and towns to showcase the role of the Kingdom as a crossroads for civilizations through the ages and achieve a qualitative shift in the field, contributing to economic growth.