Amongst the really religious Mussulmauns the day is passed in occasional prayer, besides the usual Namaaz, reading the Khoraun, or the Lives of the Prophets. I have witnessed some, in their happy employment of these fatiguing days, who evinced even greater animation in their conversation than at other times; towards the decline of a day, when the thermometer has stood at eighty-nine in the shade of a closed house, they have looked a little anxious for the stars appearing, but,—to their credit be it told,—without the slightest symptom of impatience or fretfulness at the tardy approach of evening.
My revered friend, Meer Hadjee Shaah, always told me that the great secret of a fast, to be beneficial, was to employ time well, which benefited both soul and body; employment suited to the object of the fast being the best possible alleviation to the fatigue of fasting. He adds, if the temper be soured either by the abstinence or the petty ills of life, the good effects of the fast are gone with the ruffled spirit, and that the person thus disturbed had much better break his fast, since it ceases to be of any value in the sight of Him to whom the service is dedicated; the institution of the fast having for its object to render men more humble, more obedient to their God; all dissensions must be forgotten; all vicious pursuits abandoned, to render the service of a fast an acceptable offering to God.
In the zeenahnah, the females fast with zealous rigidness; and those who have not the happiness to possess a knowledge of books, or a husband or father disposed to read to them, will still find the benefit of employment in their gold embroidery of bags and trimmings, or other ornamental needle-work; some will listen to the Khaaunie (tales), related by their attendants; others will overlook, and even assist in the preparations going forward for opening the fast. Ladies of the first quality do not think it a degradation to assist in the cooking of choice dishes. It is one of the highest favours a lady can confer on her friends, when she sends a tray of delicate viands cooked by her own hands. So that with the prayers, usual and occasional, the daily nap of two hours, indulged in throughout the year, occupation is made to fill up the day between dawn and evening; and they bear the fatigue with praiseworthy fortitude. Those who are acquainted with letters, or can afford to maintain hired readers, pass this month of trials in the happiest manner.
The fast is first broken by a cooling draught called tundhie; the same draught is usually resorted to in attacks of fever. The tundhie is composed of the seeds of lettuce, cucumber, and melon, with coriander, all well pounded and diluted with cold water, and then strained through muslin, to which is added rose-water, sugar, syrup of pomegranate, and kurah (a pleasant-flavoured distilled water from the blossom of a species of aloe). This cooling draught is drank by basins’ full amongst the