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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

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Day 1 - Samar Jarrah: “Fasting in a Place Like No Other”

Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Voices [mp3, 4:28]

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Samar JarrahOur opening voice on this first day of Ramadan is Samar Jarrah, a Kuwait-born Palestinian-American who says there is no better place to celebrate Ramadan than in her adopted country of the United States. She eloquently captures a sentiment that we hear from many foreign-born Muslims who have immigrated to the U.S. — that being a Muslim in America is to practice and to know her faith in a way she would never have discovered while living in predominantly Muslim countries of her family, whether it be in Kuwait or Jordan or Egypt.

And, she expresses such joy and delight in discovering Islam anew. You can hear it in her tone. She’s still excited, and it’s been more than 20 years since she moved to the U.S. Hearing her story about rushing back from the Middle East to celebrate Ramadan in her adopted country is a testament of what this country has to offer even in the midst of some controversial debates.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear a new voice in our “Revealing Ramadan” series. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

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Revealing Ramadan: 30 Days, 30 Stories

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

"i love RAMADAN"
Image by aamran

Yes, tomorrow is the first day of Ramadan in North America. For the next 30 days Muslims will be fasting, praying, meeting with friends, and celebrating. But, Ramadan is as much an inner journey as a set of rituals. It’s a chance for a Muslim to explore the deepest recesses of oneself and one’s relationship with God.

So, we wanted to better understand these personal stories and reflections about the meaning of Ramadan and how Muslims incorporate those experiences into their personal faith journeys during Islam’s holiest month and afterward. We created and produced a special series we call “Revealing Ramadan” in which we present 30 stories — one story per day — featuring the voices of Muslims from Madrid to Dallas and Seattle.

Check back on this blog each day or on our Facebook page to hear the latest version. If you’re the on demand type or simply need a more automated form of listening, we’ve produced a special podcast feed that’s available now. Oh, and a special show too!

Comments
A Day of Living Ramadan-ically Mitch Hanley, senior producer
Ever since we started interviewing Muslims for our Revealing Ramadan program and podcast, I’ve been curious about what it would take to fast from dawn to dusk. The clarity that one attains while fasting, which many guests had talked about, sounded intriguing to me.
Feruze Faison mentioned a Turkish doctor who theorized that, when you eat, all of the blood rushes to the stomach to aid in digestion, so when you fast, the blood can be used by other parts of the body, e.g. the brain. I’ve never fasted before and was excited to try. But how does one prepare for it?
I’ve been told what the requirements were for Ramadan: you get up in the morning before the sun rises and eat a meal. You go back to bed and get up when you normally would, or later, if possible. Your day consists of no food or water until the sun goes down, at which point you break your fast (often with a date; I had none) with what is called an iftar dinner.
Since I was doing this on my own, I was a little worried that I would eat the wrong things at my iftar. Hilarie Clement talked about her first Ramadan when she was in Dubai — breaking the fast with greasy pizza resulted in a night of vomiting. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but it was this past Tuesday night that I realized I only had until Saturday to attempt my day-long Ramadan fast. But first I had a bit of research to do.
I checked the local news weather page to find out when the sun was rising: around 6:30. Ok, so I set my alarm for 5:30 with the fallback plan of turning it off and going back to sleep, should I lose interest while drowsy. Did we have any food in the house for breaking the fast? Well, no, but that could be dealt with later. At this point it is 11:30 pm and I decide I should get some sleep. I would be attempting this fast with less-than-adequate amount of rest — brilliant planning.
5:30 AM: my phone alarm wakes me up and l leap out of bed leaving my wife and dog sound asleep. A quick check of the fridge for protein results in cream cheese toast and several scoops of vanilla yogurt. Water: drank two large glasses, which is more than I drink on a normal day (I know, bad!). Fully invested in my experiment, I updated Twitter to start off the day:

5:53 AM Attempting a day-long fast today: just got up to eat protein-rich breakfast with large amount of water.

I returned to bed to my wife, half-awake, asking, “Why are you fasting, are you converting?” No, not converting, just curious, I guess. I got up at my normal time and went to work. What follows are my tweets (updates) for the remainder of the day.

9:26 AM last tweet made no sense, so let me try again: I’m attempting a sun-up to sun-down fast, so I got up before dawn & had breakfast & lunch.


11:34 AM starting to get hungry, hell, I AM hungry & Wednesday is “church lunch” day where the church next door serves a fab hot lunch.


12:44 PM hard to remember that I can’t go get some water when I’m thirsty. This experiment makes me think about those w/o H20 everyday. 


1:17 PM In denying myself food, I’m realizing how easily I take it for granted, yes, even the food court fare. Never imagined that.


3:31 PM there’s saltwater taffy in the kitchen @ MPR, in case you wanted some. I observed that they are yummy vanilla & brown flavors.


5:53 PM In Minneapolis the sun sets at or around 7:20pm these days, in case you were curious. I was merely curious, so I checked.

At this point I knew I had no “real” food in the house and my wife wanted to watch ”her shows”: So You Think You Can Dance and Glee, so I made the decision to take myself out to dinner down the street and run an errand to Target.

7:06 PM Multi-packs of Little Debbie snack cakes are on sale for $1.25 at Target, if you’re curious. I’m just sharing my observation.

Killing time on Lake Street, watching the sun go down in my rear-view mirror, I snapped a photo before the sun plummeted into the horizon.

7:12 PM Watching the sun kiss the horizon and Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” comes on the radio—I’m not kidding! 


7:25 PM Breaking the fast at a great local spot—The Craftsman. The day of fasting was incredible. If you haven’t tried it you should!

I sat at the bar and a glass of water was placed before me. I looked at it with amazement, still holding off, as if the safety were still on. I took a drink and it was intensely thick, it was a meal in itself. The water had substance, it was savory, it felt as though I could go back out the door and fast for another couple of hours. Eventually my meal arrived and afterward I stopped by Dairy Queen for dessert, went home, and collapsed in my bed.
For a guy who doesn’t really have any regular rituals and feels a bit at a loss for it, the entire day was full of wonder, but also a bit of regret. The saying about absence making the heart grow fonder came to life for me. I realized that there is food constantly around me, whether it be the sweets around the office or the tomatoes that I am able to freely pluck from the garden out back, there is nothing special about the grazing or harvest. I am hungry (or not) and I put something in my mouth. Done. What does this mean? How am I honoring my body with what I am putting into it, and how am I honoring the craft and creation of the food or water? And with a day-long absence of food, I really became aware of just how thoughtless my food intake has been. I also am prepared to grant that a lot of aspects of life might be done thoughtlessly. What would it take for me to realize the richness of those aspects?
I did not perform the prayers throughout the day and my iftar did include a beer, so it was not really a day of adhering to all of the requirements of the faithful. But it was a truly eye-opening experience and one that I hope to do again next Ramadan. Insha’allah, I won’t be doing it alone!

A Day of Living Ramadan-ically
Mitch Hanley, senior producer

Ever since we started interviewing Muslims for our Revealing Ramadan program and podcast, I’ve been curious about what it would take to fast from dawn to dusk. The clarity that one attains while fasting, which many guests had talked about, sounded intriguing to me.

Feruze Faison mentioned a Turkish doctor who theorized that, when you eat, all of the blood rushes to the stomach to aid in digestion, so when you fast, the blood can be used by other parts of the body, e.g. the brain. I’ve never fasted before and was excited to try. But how does one prepare for it?

I’ve been told what the requirements were for Ramadan: you get up in the morning before the sun rises and eat a meal. You go back to bed and get up when you normally would, or later, if possible. Your day consists of no food or water until the sun goes down, at which point you break your fast (often with a date; I had none) with what is called an iftar dinner.

Since I was doing this on my own, I was a little worried that I would eat the wrong things at my iftar. Hilarie Clement talked about her first Ramadan when she was in Dubai — breaking the fast with greasy pizza resulted in a night of vomiting. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but it was this past Tuesday night that I realized I only had until Saturday to attempt my day-long Ramadan fast. But first I had a bit of research to do.

I checked the local news weather page to find out when the sun was rising: around 6:30. Ok, so I set my alarm for 5:30 with the fallback plan of turning it off and going back to sleep, should I lose interest while drowsy. Did we have any food in the house for breaking the fast? Well, no, but that could be dealt with later. At this point it is 11:30 pm and I decide I should get some sleep. I would be attempting this fast with less-than-adequate amount of rest — brilliant planning.

5:30 AM: my phone alarm wakes me up and l leap out of bed leaving my wife and dog sound asleep. A quick check of the fridge for protein results in cream cheese toast and several scoops of vanilla yogurt. Water: drank two large glasses, which is more than I drink on a normal day (I know, bad!). Fully invested in my experiment, I updated Twitter to start off the day:

5:53 AM Attempting a day-long fast today: just got up to eat protein-rich breakfast with large amount of water.

I returned to bed to my wife, half-awake, asking, “Why are you fasting, are you converting?” No, not converting, just curious, I guess. I got up at my normal time and went to work. What follows are my tweets (updates) for the remainder of the day.

9:26 AM last tweet made no sense, so let me try again: I’m attempting a sun-up to sun-down fast, so I got up before dawn & had breakfast & lunch.

11:34 AM starting to get hungry, hell, I AM hungry & Wednesday is “church lunch” day where the church next door serves a fab hot lunch.

12:44 PM hard to remember that I can’t go get some water when I’m thirsty. This experiment makes me think about those w/o H20 everyday.

1:17 PM In denying myself food, I’m realizing how easily I take it for granted, yes, even the food court fare. Never imagined that.

3:31 PM there’s saltwater taffy in the kitchen @ MPR, in case you wanted some. I observed that they are yummy vanilla & brown flavors.

5:53 PM In Minneapolis the sun sets at or around 7:20pm these days, in case you were curious. I was merely curious, so I checked.

At this point I knew I had no “real” food in the house and my wife wanted to watch ”her shows”: So You Think You Can Dance and Glee, so I made the decision to take myself out to dinner down the street and run an errand to Target.

7:06 PM Multi-packs of Little Debbie snack cakes are on sale for $1.25 at Target, if you’re curious. I’m just sharing my observation.

Killing time on Lake Street, watching the sun go down in my rear-view mirror, I snapped a photo before the sun plummeted into the horizon.

7:12 PM Watching the sun kiss the horizon and Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” comes on the radio—I’m not kidding!

7:25 PM Breaking the fast at a great local spot—The Craftsman. The day of fasting was incredible. If you haven’t tried it you should!

I sat at the bar and a glass of water was placed before me. I looked at it with amazement, still holding off, as if the safety were still on. I took a drink and it was intensely thick, it was a meal in itself. The water had substance, it was savory, it felt as though I could go back out the door and fast for another couple of hours. Eventually my meal arrived and afterward I stopped by Dairy Queen for dessert, went home, and collapsed in my bed.

For a guy who doesn’t really have any regular rituals and feels a bit at a loss for it, the entire day was full of wonder, but also a bit of regret. The saying about absence making the heart grow fonder came to life for me. I realized that there is food constantly around me, whether it be the sweets around the office or the tomatoes that I am able to freely pluck from the garden out back, there is nothing special about the grazing or harvest. I am hungry (or not) and I put something in my mouth. Done. What does this mean? How am I honoring my body with what I am putting into it, and how am I honoring the craft and creation of the food or water? And with a day-long absence of food, I really became aware of just how thoughtless my food intake has been. I also am prepared to grant that a lot of aspects of life might be done thoughtlessly. What would it take for me to realize the richness of those aspects?

I did not perform the prayers throughout the day and my iftar did include a beer, so it was not really a day of adhering to all of the requirements of the faithful. But it was a truly eye-opening experience and one that I hope to do again next Ramadan. Insha’allah, I won’t be doing it alone!

Comments
Glimpses of IslamAndy Dayton, associate web producerI love this photo, one of many sent to us by Muslims around the country and around the world. It was submitted by Radwan Mohamed, a 24-year-old Muslim in Edmonton, Canada. I was happy to find that when I clicked through to Radwan’s reflection, I was also moved by her words:
"This year, Ramadan fell on the dog days of August and September, where the days are long and the night short. But yet of the 24 Ramadans I’ve been alive to see and of the 19 I’ve fasted, this one is by far the most important one where I’ve prayed the most, cried the most, asked for the most forgiveness and the most guidance. And for the first time, I’ve even lost some weight. But, more importantly, this Ramadan has reconfirmed to me that Islam is the only thing that can help you realize the simplicity of life and explain the complexity of death."
From thoughtful submissions like this one we’ve produced two programs — "Revealing Ramadan" and “Living Islam” (coming next week) — and a podcast for every day in the month of Ramadan. However, many of these voices didn’t quite make it into production (in Radwan’s case, we received her submission only a few days ago). They’re worth reading, whether you find them on our "Expressions of Muslim Identity" map, our Flickr page, or elsewhere. Have a look.

Glimpses of Islam
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

I love this photo, one of many sent to us by Muslims around the country and around the world. It was submitted by Radwan Mohamed, a 24-year-old Muslim in Edmonton, Canada. I was happy to find that when I clicked through to Radwan’s reflection, I was also moved by her words:

"This year, Ramadan fell on the dog days of August and September, where the days are long and the night short. But yet of the 24 Ramadans I’ve been alive to see and of the 19 I’ve fasted, this one is by far the most important one where I’ve prayed the most, cried the most, asked for the most forgiveness and the most guidance. And for the first time, I’ve even lost some weight. But, more importantly, this Ramadan has reconfirmed to me that Islam is the only thing that can help you realize the simplicity of life and explain the complexity of death."

From thoughtful submissions like this one we’ve produced two programs — "Revealing Ramadan" and “Living Islam” (coming next week) — and a podcast for every day in the month of Ramadan. However, many of these voices didn’t quite make it into production (in Radwan’s case, we received her submission only a few days ago). They’re worth reading, whether you find them on our "Expressions of Muslim Identity" map, our Flickr page, or elsewhere. Have a look.

Comments
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La Convivencia and the West-Eastern Divan
» download [mp3, 2:57]
Marc Sanchez, associate producer

Ibrahim Al-MarashiThe audio above comes from one of our "Revealing Ramadan" participants, Ibrahim Al-Marashi, who appeared in our podcast and radio program. He’s an Iraqi-American who currently lives and teaches in Spain, and has lived in California (Los Angeles and Monterey) and Turkey. During his interview, he talked about one of the things that attracted him to Spain: La Convivencia. This idea, which translates as “the coexistence,” describes a cultural harmony between Muslims, Jews, and Christians and was first coined when Spain came under Muslim rule beginning in the 8th century. Al-Marashi goes on to talk about his Lebanese-Christian grandmother and his interests in shared Muslim-Jewish-Christian ideas.

Al-Marashi’s interview was fresh in my mind when I happened to catch an airing of the documentary, Knowledge Is the Beginning. The movie follows a season of the West-Eastern Divan, an orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

The orchestra is made up of young Israelis and Arabs, and Barenboim’s hope is to show how music can bring people together. The idea for the group was born out of Barenboim’s friendship with Edward Said.

Edward Said and Daniel BarenboimBarenboim was first raised in Buenos Aires, the son of Russian Jews, and he began studying piano and giving performances at an early age. His family relocated to Israel 10 years after Barenboim was born, and he was on the conductor’s track before his thirteenth birthday.

Said was born in Palestine before the founding of Israel. His family moved to Egypt after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He went on to study at Princeton and Harvard and to teach English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He was a prolific writer, and staunch advocate for Palestinian rights. He passed away in 2003.

West-Eastern Divan Rehearsal

In addition to his political writing and cultural criticism, Said was a passionate fan of classical music. So much so that he was the classical music critic for The Nation. It was through music that he and Barenboim first bonded. And, it was music that opened a dialogue to their differences. Said and Barenboim knew that coming together — just bringing your ideas to the table to talk — can open a lot of doors. From the orchestra’s Web site:

"Music by itself can, of course, not resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Music grants the individual the right and obligation to express himself fully while listening to his neighbour. Based on this notion of equality, cooperation and justice for all, the Orchestra represents an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East."

(Top photo: Ibrahim Al-Marashi.

Middle photo: Edward Said, left, and Daniel Barenboim, right, chat during an awards ceremony in Oviedo, Spain in 2002. Photo by Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images.

Bottom photo: The West-Eastern Divan rehearses at Royal Albert Hall in London for the BBC Proms in 2009. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.)

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Download

Revealing Ramadan: Samar Jarrah - “Fasting in a Place Like No Other”
» download [mp3, 4:28]
Trent Gilliss, online editor

Samar JarrahOne of the more difficult decisions of turning a group of 16 interviews into a limited-run podcast series within 24 hours was deciding who should be the voice to open the first day of Ramadan. Samar Jarrah eloquently captured a sentiment that we heard from many foreign-born Muslims who immigrated to the U.S. — that being a Muslim in America is to practice her faith, to fast, to pray, in a way like she would not have in Kuwait or Jordan or Egypt.

And, she expresses such joy and delight in discovering Islam anew. You can hear it in her tone. She’s still excited, and it’s been 20 years since she moved to the U.S. Hearing her story about rushing back from the Middle East to celebrate Ramadan in her adopted country makes me proud to be an American; but, she also makes me realize how tiring it must be to answer the same questions over and over again — about the veil, Islam as a violent faith, and so on.

We’ll be releasing her complete interview and essay in the coming weeks. Until that time, please enjoy this charming woman and her Ramadan reflection.

Revealing RamadanRevealing Ramadan [podcast]

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So many wonderful Ramadan stories. Only 1 hour of radio. Let them sit + collect dust? No! But what to do… Hmmm… Create a new project: Revealing Ramadan. 1 story per day for the month of Ramadan. And, share your story and images.

Comments