Hana from Syria


Half Hana

It had been a long and very hot day but five and a half year old Hana had fasted ‘steps of the minaret’.  Last year Hana remembers her parents waking her up to peer out the window at the musaharati. She had heard his voice and drum before she saw him. He was the guy who woke people up an hour before fajr so they could eat suhoor. He called out ‘Oh Sleeper wake up and say: there is no God but Everlasting Allah’ in between raps on his drum: RAP tatap tap tap tap TAP!
This year deep sounds like thunder continued throughout most nights in Damascus and musaharaties like other people dared not venture out too late. Yet she had woken up to her parents call last night, and she had eaten watermelon and white cheese and drunk sweet tea and a tall glass of water. Then her father had gone to pray in the mosque, and she had prayed fajr with her mom.
This morning Hana slept late and when she woke up the first thing she wanted to do was drink. Mama read some stories to her to help her forget, then she helped wash the floors with water. First Hana dusted the furniture while Mama swept the floors, then she watered the plants in the living room, finally the fun part of pouring water on the tile floor and drying it with a squeegee came.
“My feet are drinking water!” laughed Hana and it made her less thirsty.
“What do you feel like eating, Hana?” asked Mama. Hana was too dizzy to think of anything so she just watched Mama  prepare the half-day fasters’ tray. The tray was filled with tiny dishes of different foods. There was a dish with stuffed grape leaves, a dish of small meat patties, a dish of watermelon and a dish of cherries. To drink there was water, lemonade with mint and tamarind. Hana waited for what seemed like forever before the Mu’edhin called the Call to Prayer. Now it was time to eat.
While Hana drank and drank and ate, Mama called Baba and Tete and Amme on the phone,
“Guess who fasted the minaret steps today?” she asked person after person. Mama was proud!
“Why is it called the fast of the minaret steps, Mama?” Hana asked. Mama explained that when children begin to fast they start out with half a day. To fast a whole day is long just like a minaret is tall.
“If you climb up a few steps at a time you get used to going up all those stairs. If you start out fasting half a day, it makes it easier  to fast the whole day later on” Mama explained.
“Since you are such a big girl now do you want to try to pray half the taraweeh prayer in the mosque?” asked Baba after iftar at maghrib. Hana was so excited. She ran to her bedroom and took out her pink flowered prayer clothes, they smelled of a special perfume that Mama says is the Kaba perfume.
Now with her prayer clothes on, Hana stands proudly between Mama and another lady on the second floor of the mosque. Below she can see through the wooden Arabesque railing the men praying behind the Imam. Above her fans hum and make her cover billow and sway. The Imam prays aloud and she recites al Fatiha with him ever so softly. When she finishes the four rikas of Isha, the lady next to her kisses her and gives her a candy. Then Hana prays four more rikas with the Imam. Hana does not know the Surahs he reads but she stands still and follows his movements and she doesn’t interrupt her prayer even when she hears the children playing in the corner of the mosque.  After the first two rikas a young woman offers her a sip from a cold water bottle. Finally the four rikas are over, Mama turns to her and hugs her tight.
“Today is a very special day, my Half Hana.” Says Mama her eyes sparkling, “You have made me so happy and proud.” Hana slips off her prayer cover and begins to fold it. She decides Ramadan is a lovely month and it gets more fun and special every year.