“Saly Seyamak” or What Ramadan is Really About

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Seyam’s typical work day in Ramadan
10.30               Drag body to work (still half asleep and cranky as hell)
10.30 -11.00    Wish good morning and Ramadan Kareem to everyone he meets
11.00               Switch PC on. Log on to MSN Messenger.
11.00-11.15     Think about new MSN name and display picture for the day.
11.15               Check who’s online. Desk phone rings. Doesn’t pick up.
11.20               Check personal e-mail. Desk phone rings again. Once more, doesn’t pick up.
12.25               Check watch –T minus 7 hours, 35 minutes and counting till he can have his first smoke. Today is going to be a very long day. Desk phone rings, again. This time pick up. Mona from Finance asks for fourth quarter budgeting projection report, deadline is today. "El donya seyam ya Mona". Still checking personal e-mail.
11.35               Send nudge to Biso from HR. Ask her about the scene with Karim and his girlfriend during Sohour last night at Yameesh tent. Find out they had a fight because she wore that new low cut Fuchsia top everyone likes so much. Damn! He wonders why he wasn’t there; he would’ve liked to see that. ("Allahomma Enny Sa2em")
12.00               Message Tamer to discuss last night’s episode –they wonder whether Hamada will marry Toutou.
12.30               Get group conference from gang. Have to decide which tent to go to tonight. Which one has the best babes? ("Allahomma Enny Sa2em") Which one has the best Shisha? Which one has the best entertainment? Boss arrives at work. Pretend to check important e-mails. Boss goes to his office. Continue with conversation. They decide on Amar El Deen tent.
1.00                 Prayer time. Round up the group.
1.30                 Back at desk. Check time. ("Ya lahwy. Lessa baaadry!")
1.35                 Bathroom break. Fantasize about first drag from cigarette and first coffee cup tonight.
1.45                 Back at desk. Check time. ("Ya Rab!")
1.50                 Play ‘Counter Strike’ on the network with the group. Yehia is going down this time!
2.15                 Boss approaches. Alt+Tab the game. Boss asks about the fourth quarter comprehensive projection report. Yes, yes, it’s done, he lies. ("Allahomma Enny Sa2em")  Haven’t started it yet, deadline is in two days, there’s still time. Boss goes away. Continue the game.
2.55                 Pack up and leave. Think about rushing home to sleep till eating time.
OK, I think Seyam and company need a reality check. They seem to have forgotten the essence of Ramadan, and the reasons behind the 30-day dawn till dusk fasting.
Ramadan is not about spending the daytime in a ‘Saly Seyamak’ (entertain your fasting) frame of mind, bidding the time go by till it’s time to eat, all the while doing nothing of consequence, missing work deadlines, and wasting work hours in online chatting, gossip and games. Ramadan is also not about spending nights in tents stuffing yourself like a turkey, smoking Shisha till you’re blind from smoke and watching coma-inducing television series.
As everyone is well aware of course, Ramadan does involve trying to get closer to God, and a wonderful way to do that is to pray on time, and while it’s amazing to pray in a group, it’s not so great to use prayer to waste time. People, Islam is about intentions.
Somebody explain to me why some people gossip, badmouth, lie and cuss while they’re fasting, and then say  ("Allahomma Enny Sa2em"). It’s not an eraser, whereby you can undo whatever wrong you’ve done. It’s a reminder to abstain from doing anything bad to begin with, in an effort to get a great reward: God’s blessing. It’s an enigma to me how people use fasting as an excuse for not working. ‘El donya seyam’ is like a monopoly pass: go right through work day all the way to dinner table; collect food! I would like to understand how people expect God to accept their fasting when they worry about Hamada and Toutou’s silver screen marriage, more than making sure that their paychecks are well justified?! Say it with me, Islam is about intentions.
Fasting is supposed to be hard; it is supposed to be an ordeal (albeit a cleansing and spiritual one); and it’s supposed to be experienced in full, meaning while you’re fully awake. I’ll tell you what fasting is not though. Fasting is not supposed to hinder working, but rather compliment it. I know this from experience. As a kid I lived in Kuwait, and anyone who’s been to the Gulf knows the kind of craze-inducing heat they have over there. In the late eighties and early nineties, Ramadan was in the Gulf summer months (which is pretty much all year round, but who’s counting). In my school, run by Brits, kids had the option of spending their break time indoors or in the playground. But other than that is was business as usual, in every sense of the word. I remember playing rigorous sports during my physical education (P.E) class (and no we’re not talking Mistar Mokhtar’s and Meess Azhar’s ‘2al3ab’, I mean, real sports like basketball, gymnastics, or England’s version of baseball: rounders). There was no way out of P.E., no matter what; they were extra strict during Ramadan of course, and a lot of the time we had to play outdoors (yes, no air-conditioning). As an added bonus, there were the usual school meets and sports days and tournaments. On the academic side, I remember a Ramadan or two with term exams in them. Looking back, I cannot help but feel the utmost respect for these people, they enforced grit, and perseverance on us, which are just a couple of the qualities Ramadan tries to instill in us.
Not everybody of course is a Seyam; there are people out there who work hard on staying focused on the true meanings of Ramadan. Unfortunately, there are an alarmingly large number of people who are pro the ‘Saly Seyamak’ school; the ones who like Seyam et al, spend their weekend mornings sleeping to within an inch of the ever elusive ‘madfa3’ (you know who you are) –these are the ones I find myself talking about.
Remember, Islam is about intentions, so while Seyam might spend the entire month not working and not get caught by anyone, God knows his intentions.
I hope God accepts the hard efforts of each and every one of us.
Ramadan Karim.
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