And before you Westerncentric folk get on the Muslim bashing track again, let me make it clear that no one stands behind the backs of these women with AK47s encouraging them to make the eatables. It just doesn’t happen like that. Don’t believe everything you see or hear in the media.
But there is an almost invisible force driving Muslim women, and it is profoundly recognisable in South Africa, to make sure that their freezers are well stocked weeks before the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadhaan. Try listening on a conversation between two Muslim women as the holy month arrives. I’m almost certain you will hear interspersed somewhere in the chatter, “Im done with my pies. 20 dozen rolled filled and packed. I’ve just got my samoosas, moons and patterias to make.”
Every year as Rajab, the seventh month of the Islamic lunar calendar draws to a close and the crescent of Shabaan appears, women in most South African Muslim homes enter a hyper-drive rolling pastries, crumbing the perfect cutlets and folding precisely sized samoosas with an ever increasing list of exotic fillings.
This year’s highlight, if you haven’t heard about it already, is the ‘pizza samoosa’. A drie-hoekie-koekie with a variety of ingredients that can usually be found spread across the face of a pizza. Culinary innovation I know, but at what cost to family, spiritual and societal life.
Simply existing in 2012 is already fraught with enormous stresses. From the upbringing of the kids, cooking the daily meals, doing the homework, finishing the household chores, looking after hubbies needs, being a confidante to friends and a dartboard to mother-in-law, women still need to find time to open their own savoury factory in the days leading up to the month of Ramadhaan in order to satiate the appetite of their families for a period of 30 days.
And what about those women who have to get to work on time and deal with professional pressure?
These homes have become fixated with the consumption of savoury delights during the holy month. An outside observer would not be mistaken in assuming that it is part of a religious observance. Fasting South African Muslims seem to able consume samoosa’s like blue whales sifting plankton. “It’s part of the spirit of the month,” argues my colleague, Imraan Ismail. “Ramadhaan wouldn’t be Ramadhaan without savouries.” According to who, I ask. “Which book of hadith did you find that in?”
Let’s be honest – throughout most of the year, those of us who have been lucky enough to be blessed with reasonable income, survive on at least one full meal per day with quick snacks in between. Hardly ever do we sit down to a meal as sumptuous and overflowing as we do during Ramadhaan. Who says after the call to prayer for maghrib is given, we all need to sit and engorge ourselves in a platter of samoosas and pies before heading off to the masjid. In fact many would admit that they eat so much savouries before the actual meal, they can’t partake of the real thing. The orchestra of burping and belching sounds and smells bears testimony to the conquests at the table a few minutes earlier.
Why can’t the fast simply be broken with a date and a few sips of water before the performance of the maghrib salaah? This can then be followed by a meal similar to the one we have throughout the year.
I understand the need to eat after a day of hunger – but by cutting out the savouries, I believe we will simply be removing a lot of pressure and stress from the lives of our womenfolk prior to the month of Ramadhaan.
There is the option of buying the savouries but most people can’t afford that. Financial times and barakah (blessings) are just not what they used to be. Alternatively let’s ask men to make the lot. I can guarantee you one of two things – there wouldn’t be any savouries next year or savoury outlet owners will be listing on the stock exchange.