Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Shabana Is a Kind of Pre-Ramadan Celebration
Zain Al-Alawi, Arab News

MAKKAH, 29 August 2007 — Toward the end of Shaban, which is the Arabic month preceding the month of Ramadan, families around the Kingdom gather and enjoy themselves in an open party known popularly as Shabana.

The concept of Shabana was conjured by women, who say it is a brilliant opportunity to rest and have fun before busying themselves during Ramadan with prayer, recitation of the Qur’an and preparing food. Shabanas are attended by women of various ages and status, who gather at different locations that include homes, hotels, beach resorts, restaurants, coffee shops, and even schools and universities.

Matouk, a 46-year-old Makkah resident, compared Shabana in the past to how it is celebrated presently. “We used to have our Shabanas at different districts in huge houses or open areas... My family and I were keen to attend such parties to enjoy ourselves and to meet our neighbors,” said Matouk, adding that the participants would all contribute cash to make the necessary arrangements for Shabana.

“It hasn’t changed a lot except that people are making these parties in huge halls in which women of various districts come to participate... Some women have been creative in the way they arrange their Shabanas,” she added.

Uhoud Al-Bishi, a singer, said she is increasingly invited to Shabanas to sing. “These parties look very much like weddings. They comprise banquets and music. The difference, however, is that some girls that are present participate in traditional dances. The costs for the parties are shared by the attendees,” she said, adding that each woman would pay SR35 to SR45 as a minimal charge to participate in a Shabana party. She added that she earns SR2,500 to SR10,000 for singing.

A woman, who did not want her name to be published, said that in some parties women play the role of a bride and a groom and wear typical wedding dresses just to add fun to the ceremony. “We ensure having such things in our parties because many people enjoy them,” she added.

Some girls, however, would prefer to gather in coffee shops where they can smoke shisha and have food. “This is the best place where I can meet classmates. We talk about news and gossip. Shabana is no different to other gatherings that take place around the year,” said one girl, adding that people tend to hold them every year before Ramadan because they do not get time to get together during Ramadan.

“In Ramadan, we invest our time in prayer and reading Qur’an as well as preparing iftar meals. There isn’t much time left for socialization,” she said. Amani Al-Said, a university student, said that she has been familiar with Shabana since an early age but did not know what they signified until she grew older. “I love going to such parties and I wait for them. When I was young I didn’t know what Shabana meant but I used to enjoy them. Now I make sure that I have a Shabana with my friends. We’re going to have ours soon,” she said.

Mariam Bukhari, an Arabic teacher at an intermediary school, condemned some practices in Shabanas. “We didn’t use to include any music when we used to have our Shabanas in the past. It’s meant only for cousins and families to gather before women get busy during Ramadan,” Bukhari said, adding that preachers and imams must correct wrong practices.

Sarah Al-Dowsari, also a teacher, said that many people hold such parties before Ramadan in which they have fun and food. She added that some families hold similar parties at other times of the year, including during the middle of Rajab, which is known as the Rajbana. Rajab is significant to Muslims as the month of Isra and Miraj — the name given to the two parts of the journey that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made to the Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and then to the Heavens.

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