• Balls Deep this week explores Ramadan (SBS VICELAND)Source: SBS VICELAND
The investigative SBS VICELAND show gives us a refreshing and accessible tour of the Muslim tradition of Ramadan.
Jeremy Cassar

9 Dec 2016 - 2:18 PM  UPDATED 12 Dec 2016 - 9:29 AM

With the third episode of Balls Deep, reporter Thomas Morton—a bespectacled journalist whose personality ranges from glib and sarcastic to genuinely engaged—takes us on an enlightening journey through a moderate Muslim family’s celebration of Ramadan.

The episode takes place in Dearborn, Michigan; a city with the densest Muslim population in the United States.

Here is what I learned from Morton's time with the Dabajeh family:

  • The Dabajeh family celebrate Ramadan for thirty days. No food or liquid can enter the body until 9:30pm of an evening. This process is believed to purify the person. And don’t even think of heading to bed after eating, as the night has only just begun, and usually winds down mid-morning.
  • The day before Ramadan begins, Dearborn shopping centers rival Black Friday in terms of frantic purchasing. A sea of hijabs stock up on a months worth of evenings. The Dabajeh matriarch is a ruthless grocery shopper. She knows what she wants.

  • The minute before Ramadan officially begins is called Imsak, and it’s where Muslims chug the last drop of water for a good many hours, while others choose to take gigantic tokes on Hookah’s filled with fruit-flavoured tobacco. Of course, Thomas whispers something about ganja to camera for required hipster cred.
  • While the Dabajeh parents both belief in the sanctity of the hijab, neither they nor most Muslims enforce wearing the unnecessarily controversial headscarf, and it’s the individual’s choice. Out of their five daughters, three wear the hijab and two don’t. Mandatory wearing of the hijab is not stipulated in the Qur’an, and at the time, the garment was actually worn by both sexes.

  • The day starts with a ‘purity rinse’, where water purifies the arms, face and feet. How these features are washed, and in which order is important. The right hand does the washing, because the left hand is considered unclean, as it is the hand you use in conjunction with toilet paper. One must repeat the purity rinse if they urinate, empty their bowels, or even break wind. 

  • Prayers to Allah are considered good deeds and result in positive returns. On the ‘night of power’, prayers are considered exponentially more potent, and the community gets together to pray their own personal prayers for hour upon end. When praying for the dead, Muslim’s believe the soul remains in the body of the buried.
  • Everytime a terrorist attack occurs, the Dabejeh family pray it’s not a Muslim. The family stipulates that not even 1 percent of the Muslim population have bastardised the religion to such a horrifying extent.  In the end, Thomas is told that the Imam Ali says “if he is not your brother in faith, he is your brother in humanity”.

This Ramadan episode of Balls deep is a revealing, layered experience. The majority of the episode is devoted to the experience of Ramadan, illuminating the difference to western religion - with its rituals and traditions not confined to an hour at church on a Sunday, but heavily ingrained into the living fabric of every practicing Muslim. And those rituals and traditions seem in service of what they consider a good life.

So when the family are asked about Islamic terrorism, it’s not that it comes across as rude or inappropriate, but merely incongruous. The Dabajeh family are brimming with heart and respect, and their way of life has no room for such sinister machinations.

This episode is definitely worth the watch. 

Balls Deep airs on Wednesdays at 9:20pm on SBS VICELAND. This week the 'Ramadan' episode will air as a special encore on SBS on Monday 12 December at 10:20pm. You can also stream the episode now on SBS On Demand:

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