The Palestinian newspapers and magazines of the 1940s showcase a society that is diverse and multifaceted during a holiday that we would expect to be traditional and perhaps staid. Even articles with tedious titles such as Shaykh 'Abd  al-Hamid al-Sa’ih’s ‘Ramadan and the Righteous Guidance’ take an unexpected turn when the Shaykh engages in an intellectual manoeuvre; comparing Ramadan, fasting, and almsgiving with Imperialism and Socialism, saying: “we have a reasonable [type] of Socialism, and a moderate [model] of imperialism”.1

 

Next to the Shaykh’s article, is another written by Ishaq Abd al-Qadir Rashid congratulating all Muslims on Ramadan; describing it as the month 'of devotion and worship, the month of pleasures and entertainment’. He starts speaking of Ramadan’s holiness and sanctity, then explains how it is an opportunity for people to meet over feasts followed by singing and various sorts of entertainment, or as he calls them ‘innocent pleasures’. He stresses that Ramadan is a symbol of Islamic unity in devotion as well as pleasures.2  

At the time, Socialism was a recurrent theme and a common concern among Palestinian writers and intellectuals, and it seems that Ramadan represented the perfect platform for them to advocate the values of social equality and communal solidarity. Muhammad 'Abd al-Salam al-Barghouti argues, for example, that fasting becomes void and of no purpose unless the person devotedly worships Allah and serves his community, saying that if a consolidated class of believers, where the rich do not despise the poor and the poor do not envy the rich, does not emerge as a result of fasting, then the worship is stripped of its meaning.3 Likewise, Shaykh 'Abdallah Ghusha ends a long article on ‘devotional worship and the rights of Muslim believers’ with a call to all Muslims to invest in public projects and facilities saying they are a kind of charity with rewards that last forever.4  

We also encounter a number of articles attempting to introduce innovative and alternative meanings of fasting. 'Abd al-Hamid Yasin, for instance, calls on believers to endorse a different kind of fast by abstaining from oral speech and written chatter; igniting their intellect and renouncing laziness instead. He also wishes that people would practice this type of fast all year-round.5 In a similar context, Khairi Hamad recounts in an article addressed to his friend Hassan, a discussion they had with three other friends in an attempt to makes sense of Ramadan, fasting, and the following festivities of Eid. The writer stresses on the group’s diversity in terms of nationality, ideological affiliation and education. He exclaims at one point that one of his friends leaned towards orthodox Islam, and often engaged in bombastic sermons, while another was careless and taken by earthly pleasures. The opinions of the five friends on fasting reflect a wide array of religious ideas associated with different theological sects like Sufism, Ash‘arism and, as noted earlier, Orthodoxy. This diversity and disagreement did not get in the way of a strong friendship, as Hamad notes, while stressing that the discussions usually ended the same way they started, with each person abiding by his convictions.6    

 

The most interesting and somewhat surprising contribution among all is a poem by Muhammad Hasan ‘Ala’ al-Din, with a note next to his name saying that he is a vegetarian. In it the poet asks Allah for forgiveness, since he is not fasting the conventional fast. He then explains that the conscience of his heart has been fasting for years by abstaining from the injustice of hunting animals and eating meat.7      

We could say that the articles celebrating Ramadan in Palestinian newspapers and magazines in the 1940s were ideological rather than descriptive, as writers competed to accommodate Ramadan and fasting with a variety of ideologies like socialism, intellectual rationalism, and even political Islam.

 

...

1رمضان والتوجيه الصحيح، المنتدى، 26 تموز 1946

2شهر رمضان، المنتدى، 26 تموز 1946

3حديث رمضان، صحيفة الوحدة، 4 آب 1947

4العبادات الدينية وحقوق العباد، المنتدى 26 تموز 1946

5الصوم أنواع، المنتدى، 26 تموز 1946

6في أحاديث خمسة بين الصيام والعيد، صحيفة القافلة، 22 آب 1947

7صوم، مجلة القافلة، 8 آب 1947