Mauritanians mark Ramadan with increased prayer
By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 06/08/12
The month of Ramadan is associated with a high level of religiosity in Mauritania, particularly through widespread practice of religious rites in individual life, the household and at the official level.
The government takes measures to facilitate fasting, running convoys of food aid to the mosques under the banner of iftar, while the dominant programming for various official media shifts from entertainment, arts and social programs to religious shows and performances in which the various ulema and religious scholars take part.
"The proportion of religiosity is set apart by many idiosyncrasies that cannot be observed except in Mauritania," journalist Sidi Mohamed Ould Younis said.
Ould Younis added that religious activity in the country was focused on Friday prayers and the month of Ramadan, when mosques are filled with worshippers.
"The fact that people turn to prayer and religion in the month of Ramadan is explained only by their desire to atone for the life of deviation and all the sins and misdeeds they committed during the other months of the year," he said.
In turn, Mohamed Abderrahman Ould Maham, who works in a media production company, told Magharebia that it was "almost impossible to measure the phenomenon of religiosity in Mauritania".
He noted contradictory practices during the holy month, where large crowds attend services at mosques even as people openly break the fast during the day. "It is easy to see people eat during the day in Ramadan, and for the most part they are young people," he said.
"Likewise, you see mosques full of bearded young people praying in the month of Ramadan only, but the majority of those are just young people who aren't religious most of the time but take the holy month to grow beards, use the rosary and attend prayers," Ould Maham added.
"As for the naturally religious people, they are the few who remain faithful to frequenting mosques after the month of Ramadan," he added.
Islamic law researcher Mohamed Lamine Ould Mustapha told Magharebia, "All Mauritanians always pray at times other than Ramadan, but Ramadan undoubtedly witnesses increasing turnout at mosques and a lot of good work."
"The proportion of religiosity varies from person to person based on commitment to praying in mosques and respect for prayer times, and falling short in performance of rituals associated with prayer," the researcher said.
"There are always people who do not attend mosques and people who do not pray at prayer time, but it is impossible to find a Mauritanian who does not pray and admits it," Ould Mustapha added.
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