Ramadan is considered the “holy month,” and Sefrioui Muslims are no exception in Morocco. During Ramadan, Sefrouians exert energy from their day to worship and pray to God, which requires strict fasting from sunrise until sunset. Abstinence from food and drink is only the basics of fasting, as Muslims must also refrain from lying, gossiping, sexual relations, and any other sin. While the body is robbed of essential food items and water, the soul is nourished with mindfulness and worship. According to Hsain lahiane’s article, The social mobility of the Haratine and the re-working of Bourdieu’s Habitus on the Saharan Frontier, Morocco (June 2001), he describes Ramadan as “a month of reconciliation, repentance, and intense worship of God.” Therefore, Muslims need all the time to pray and worship God to gain access to heaven before Judgement Day. Worship for Muslims (and, by extension, most Sefrouians) assumes the form of prayer (salaat), fasting (sawm), and charity (zakaat). For Muslims, charity is an umbrella term that includes almsgiving, social reconciliation, forgiveness, kindness, cleaning, and good deeds that benefit the self and others.
During Ramadan, the streets are deserted where Sefrouians are either at the mosques worshiping or at cafes reconnecting with family and friends. It is rare for Muslim Sefrouians to frequent the marketplace for food and drinks unless they are exempted from fasting or purchase groceries to prepare iftar – the term for breaking fast. Foods and desserts rich in glucose are ready to nourish the body after a long day. Although Muslims traditionally break their fast with dates (tamr), Moroccans also prepare desserts like sfouf or briwat. While sfouf is a sweet collection of toasted and ground almonds, sesames, and flour with warm spices and honey, briwat is a “finger-shaped” puff pastry that is filled with either sweet or savory mixes, depending on familial preference.
The dessert depicted is known as sellou or sfouf. Photo by Christine Benlafquih. https://tasteofmaroc.com/moroccan-sellou-recipe/
Tradition Moroccan Mint Tea and Dates for “Iftar” or “Breaking Fast” at Sunset https://cookidoo.ca/recipes/recipe/en-CA/r338888
According to one of the responses from our survey, one Sefrouian participant claimed: “most people do not leave their house unless it’s very urgent since fasting can be a bit tiring.” As a result, Sefrouians often enjoy a hearty suhoor (or pre-dawn meal) before the fasting period begins to ensure they are as energetic as possible during the fasting period for a day of worship. On the menu for Sefroui families during suhoor is chebakia, golden-brown fried cookies covered in honey and sesame seeds. The energy from suhoor is helpful for worship and other necessary daily activities such as running errands, grocery shopping, attending school, and managing employment responsibilities.
Photo of Chebakia During the month of Ramadan by Si Yousef. http://www.cookingwithalia.com/494-chebakiya-moroccan-sweet/
Another form of tradition of Ramadan that pays tribute to God for guidance and creation of humankind is referred to as “Laylatul Qadr.” Laylatul Qadr, also referred to as the “Night of Power,” is the night when the Qura’n was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The first verses of the Qura’n were shown with the command to “Read.”
“Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists) (2) Has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood (3) Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, (4) Who has taught (the writing) by the pen [the first person to write was Prophet Idrees (Enoch)], (5) Has taught man that which he knew not.” (Chapter 96, verses 1-5)
People in Sefrou worship God devotedly and extend gratitude for watching over them and freeing them from their sins, and allowing them to obtain peace where it’s “peace ’til dawn.” According to Kulsoom Farhat’s article, The night of power- Al-Qadr, he claimed that “a conscious realization of the sanctity of this night acts as a shield against unworthy thoughts and inclinations’ ‘ (pg. 3). Based on this quote, the night serves as a “shield” from the unexpected during the daytime, in which nighttime is the only time to seek peace with God. During the nights of Ramadan, and especially Laylatul Qadr, Sefrouians would hold Tarawih prayers in the mosque in which the night was considered “sacred” to them. Although praying at the mosque (masjid) is the primary form of worship during the night, some Sefrouians engage in other festivities. They host traditional celebrations such as hoisting young girls on Amaria and listening to music, while others congregate in cafes or relatives’ homes to abridge relations. According to one of the responses we received from our survey, one person claimed that “one of the main rituals of the Safrians on Laylat al-Qadr is the celebration of young girls on Amaria (an elegant, roofed platform) wearing bride costumes and listening to the tunes of Issawa (a popular band).” This reveals a form of a festival held in the ending days of Ramadan where the night is a special night to pay tribute to God.
Ramadan rituals end on the eve of Eid, where families begin preparing for the joyous festivities the following day. Women rally with one another to make halwas or sweets, children prepare their new clothes for Eid, and families prepare for warm home visitations the following day. Eid is a day where gratitude is expressed towards God for the opportunity of observing Ramadan and where families gather to express love for one another and love for tradition and faith.
Zehra Al-Timimi Rizvi
Zineb El Azhar
Bouazza, H. B. (2020, April 30). 10 Ramadan traditions in Morocco. Blue Door Cuisine. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://bluedoorcuisine.com/10-ramadan-traditions-in-morocco/
Farhat, Kulsoom. (November 23, 2018). The night of power- Al-Qadr. Army Medical College. pp. 1-4.
History.com Editors. (2010, October 28). Ramadan. History.com. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/ramadan
Ilahiane, Hsain. (June 2001). The Social Mobility of the Haratine and the Re-Working of Bourdieu’s Habitus on the Saharan Frontier, Morocco. Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association. Vol. 3. pp. 380-394. JSTOR. Retrieved from:: https://www.jstor.org/stable/683472