Ramadan in the Land of the Rising Sun
Issue 94 July 2012
Ramadan transcends across multiple cultures, but Islam is still very new to Japan. Ali Khimji discovers indigenous Japanese converts who are at the forefront of creating an authentic Japanese Islamic experience.
Muslims are often found talking about Ramadan as their favourite time of the year, for a whole host of different reasons, but what makes Ramadan so unique to Islam is how a universal practice can be experienced in many different ways across the globe. All Muslims are required to do the same things: abstain from food and drink during daylight, and increase their God-consciousness. But the environment in which you observe Ramadan can have a massive influence. If you’re in an Arab country, then it could be slightly easier since everyone around you is fasting. But if you live in a country with not many Muslims, then Ramadan may be somewhat harder.
Take Japan for example. With a Muslim population of 100,000 against a total population of 127 million, this is one country where Muslims are certainly in the minority. But then again, this can be advantageous to the Japanese Muslims. “Muslims being the super minority makes Ramadan unique in Japan, I suppose,” says Shaykh Abu Hakeem Ahmed Maeno, a native of Japan who embraced Islam at the age of 18. “It becomes totally up to you make Ramadan fruitful, because there is almost no environmental support from your surroundings to help to make you feel the month of Ramadan.”
For Shaykh Maeno there are not many traditions for Ramadan which stem directly from Japanese culture, but feels that there is no harm in adopting such customs. “Ideas could be shared like eating mocha (rice cake) for iftar or at Eid gatherings, and wearing a kimono (Japanese traditional clothing) at happy Eid gatherings.”