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Ramadan: Muslim farmers live their faith

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While doing hard labour while not eating or drinking for 13 hours per day is challenging, Muslim farmers gladly make this sacrifice during Ramadan, practicing patience, hope and faith.

For Muslim farmers, the month of Ramadan can be particularly challenging. Farming generally requires a high amount of physical exertion, and not being able to eat nor drink whilst working can be hard on the body.

The appearance of the new moon on 13 April marked the beginning of Ramadan 2021. Millions of Muslims from across the globe will observe the holy month, practicing Ṣawm, which means “to refrain” in Arabic. Muslims fast in the hours between sunrise and sunset, not eating or drinking anything as a way to honour the revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Mohammed.

For Imraan Ishmael, a livestock farmer from Lenasia, the physical strain starts to take effect after midday. “We fast for a period of thirteen hours a day. This is a dry fast, with no food or water whatsoever. As a result, this places a strain on the body. The heat plays a part, together with the day’s fasting.”

Mohammed Asmal, from Asmal Boerdery in Benoni, agrees. As a cattle farmer, he says the fasting gets particularly tough on days when more intense labour is required but that his faith gets him through. “Some days it really does get tough and I feel like breaking my fast. However, as farmers The Almighty has instilled certain values in us, the main one being patience. I guess that’s what pushes us through our days on the farm while fasting.”

Photo: Mohamed Asmal says he tries to keep intense labour to a minimum during the fasting period, but “the show must go on”. Photo: Asmal Boerdery/ Supplied
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Asmal, whose speciality is Wagyu cattle farming, says that during Ramadan “the show goes on” for Asmal Boerdery. “Ramadan is a reminder for Muslim farmers to start preparing for Qurbani (Eid-Ul-Adha), which is approximately 68-70 days after the end of Ramadan. I try to limit intense labour during the month of Ramadan for our employees as much as possible but, like I said, the show goes on.”

Ishmael, who has been a livestock trader and poultry farmer since 1992,  says he has less time available to complete his work during Ramadan. “We have a shorter period of time to work in, compared to a normal day. Less hours, same amount of work to get done.” Outside of the holy month, Ishmael is usually able to attend auctions for new livestock. He finds that his attendance becomes limited during Ramadan, however. “As a result, we purchase the animals either online or telephonically”.

“We fast for a period of thirteen hours a day. This is a dry fast, with no food or water whatsoever. As a result, this places a strain on the body. The heat plays a part, together with the day’s fasting.”

However, the month of Ramadan is a time when acts of charity tend to increase. Ishmael finds that this has a positive effect on his sales. “Ramadan is the month of giving, so livestock and meat sales tend to increase as many individuals and organisations run feeding schemes for the poor and needy.”

Asmal Boerdery specialises in Wagyu cattle farming. Photo: Asmal Boerdery / Supplied

To Asmal, Ramadan is a month of peace, giving and forgiveness. “Ramadan is my time for reflection. It helps me heal in so many ways. I am truly passionate about farming and everything that is involved with it.

“For me, the long and hard hours do not matter. It is about the patience, hope, and faith, because there is no better display of faith than a man planting his seed in hope to harvest it a few months later.”

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Nicole Ludolph
Nicole Ludolph
Born and bred in Cape Town, Nicole Ludolph is always telling a story. After a few years doing this and that, she decided that she might as well get paid for her stories. Nicole began her journalism career writing science articles for learner magazine Science Stars and interning at Getaway Magazine.
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