Have you started preparing for Ramadan? Stocking the pantry or making spiritual preparations? Or both?
Today is the 15th day of the month of Shaban, meaning there’s just 15 days to go until the moon sighting and the start of Ramadan. And in many cultures, this day is special in itself. Different countries have different ways of celebrating and each has a different name for it but in Bangladesh where I grew up, we call it ‘Shaab-e-Baraat’ and we think of this day as the gateway to Ramadan.
It’s a time when we commemorate and pray for our dead, for the forgiveness of their sins and for the forgiveness of our own wrongdoings. We believe that on the night of Shaab-e-Baraat, God writes the destinies of all men and women for the coming year by taking into account the deeds they committed in the past.
There is historical evidence that The Prophet Mohammad (s) used to fast in Shaban in preparation for Ramadan. When Usama bin Zaid asked ‘Why?’, he said “Shaban is a month between Rajab and Ramadan which many people neglect but it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the universe, so I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting.”
The Prophet’s beloved youngest wife Aisha is also reported to have said that Prophet Muhammad (s) used to fast for most of Shaban and that he said, “In this month Allah prescribes the list of the persons dying this year. Therefore, I like that my death comes when I am in a state of fasting.”
As a Bangladeshi-born Australian, I have many fond memories of Shaab-e-Baraat and of the holy month of Ramadan.
This year Shaab-e-Baraat begins in the evening of Friday, March 18 and ends in the evening of Saturday, March 19 and after more than 25 years living in Australia, it has coincided with a rare opportunity for me to celebrate such a fond occasion with my family and loved ones in Dhaka. As a child and as an adolescent in Bangladesh, the way my middle class, academic family celebrated Shaab-e-Baraat taught me to be caring, sharing, forgiving and forbearing.
In the time I have been living in Australia, both my parents and two of my elder siblings have passed away so this year on this day of Shaab-e-Baraat, we will reflect and pay respect to them, visit their graves and offer Dou’aa with a grateful heart. We have also invited some orphan children to dine with us in our home, also offering them some financial help to continue their study of the holy Quran.
In a close-knit family with six siblings, we savoured great food for Shaab-e-Baraat in my childhood. This year my wife Shahnaz, her sister Shewly and I decided to prepare some very special and traditional Shaab-e-Baraat food for ourselves, also to be able to send to the extended family, relatives and our invited orphaned guests. This is the spirit that we are preparing for ourselves to observe a holy month of Ramadan.
Below is our family recipe for CHICKPEA HALWA which we always make and share for Shaab-e-Baraat
PREP TIME 30 minutes (after soaking the chickpeas)
1 cup of dried chickpea
1 Cup of Sugar
1 Cup of Liquid milk
1/2 cup of Powdered Milk
1/2 cup of Condensed milk
10grams whole Cardamom
2 Cinnamon sticks
1/2 piece Bay leaf
1 teaspoon of Rose Water
20-30g Cashew Nuts
Step 1: Clean and wash the chickpeas. Soak in water for 4-5 hours. Then boil until lightly soft and all water dries up. Turn off flame and grind the soaked chickpeas with the milk and keep to one side
Step 2: Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Add ground chickpea mush, the sugar, condensed milk, powdered milk, cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaf. Keep stirring with a ladle until thick and the mixture leave the sides of the pan.
Step 3: Remove the whole species (cardamom, cinnamon and bayleaf) from halwa mix. Stir in the rosewater then add the cashews – you can grind them or add whole which looks prettiest. Lightly grease a 1inch deep tin with ghee, press the mixture evenly into the tin evenly and leave to cool for a minimum of half an hour. Slice into small 1 inch square cubes and place a half cashew nut on the top of each cube to serve.
This and my family’s other Shaab-e-Baraat recipes can be found at www.recipesforramadan.com – just search on Bangladesh in Recipes & Stories.
Maqsood Al Kabir is a Sydney and Geneva-based human rights worker and an international development consultant. https://twitter.com/akmaqsood|https://web.facebook.com/akmaqsood/ | https://www.linkedin.com/in/akmaqsood/