How our Muslim Scientists Observed Ramadan while out at Sea

Earth Observatory Blog

How our Muslim Scientists Observed Ramadan while out at Sea


When I spoke with Captain Victor Broi the other morning, he mentioned that one of the biggest challenges facing his crew on this voyage was keeping everyone happy when it comes to food. In particular, he cited the need to prepare a special pre-dawn breakfast for those passengers observing Ramadan, the month-long period (it ended yesterday on Wednesday) when Muslims fast during daylight hours.

Two of the passengers who enjoyed those breakfasts are Dr Hendra Pachri, a researcher in Engineering Geology at the Hasanuddin University in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province, and Dr Rina Zuraida, a researcher at the Marine Geological Institute of Indonesia in Bandung, West Java Province.

Ramadan, Dr Pachri told me, has a physical and a spiritual side — the fasting is the physical act, but its purpose it to instill compassion for one’s fellow man, to bring the community together in a common purpose, and to be closer to God.

“We are also asked to keep our emotions in check,” said Dr Zuraida. “According to my teacher when I was a child, if you are angry at people when you are fasting, then you have only learned about hunger and thirst. The spiritual lesson is to learn to be patient even as you are suffering.” During Ramadan, she added, Muslims are asked to do things like recite the Al-quran more often throughout the day, so people are not only hungry, they are also tired. “You should always be kind and patient with people,” she said with a laugh, “but during Ramadan, sometimes that’s a bit hard.” 

Harder still is observing Ramadan away from one’s family. “This is the first time I have been away from my immediate family during Ramadan,” Dr Pachri said, “but they supported this trip.”

Dr Hendra Pachri (left) and Dr Rina Zuraida graciously shared their thoughts on science in the Quran and observing Ramadan at sea.

For Dr Zuraida, this is not the first time work has interrupted her time with her family during Ramadan, but it is the first time she has left her family behind while in Indonesia. “On those other occasions, I was already out of the country, so I had an excuse, if you will,” she said. “This time, I was in Indonesia but decided to leave anyway. The fasting is more or less the same,” she added, “but I’m a little seasick. I’m managing.”

As Muslim scientists, both Dr Pachri and Dr Zuraida take comfort in the fact that their faith is also supportive of their decision to join an activity like the MIRAGE expedition, even at this holy time of the year.

“In the Al-quran,” Dr Zuraida said, “there are verses about volcanoes and mountains, as well as two oceans that meet but cannot mix. So there are oceanographic and geological references in the Al-quran, and that’s really interesting to me as a Muslim and a scientist.”

“The Al-quran has descriptions of geological processes,” Dr Pachri agreed. “So sometimes, if I’m discussing geology with my children or friends, I can show them that I am following a fundamental science found in the Al-quran. These processes were identified and written down a long time ago.”

And what about that special breakfast that Capt Broi was so concerned about getting right?

“I know the crew had to wake up earlier than usual every day, and we are very appreciative of that,” said Dr Zuraida. “It was very nice of them, and that’s why when I couldn’t finish the breakfast, I felt guilty because I knew they had made a special effort. But the portions were huge!”

For the record, Dr Pachri thought the portions were just fine.


To continue to follow the progress of MIRAGE, please check the EOS blog throughout the month of July, and spread the word using #MIRAGEcruise.

All photographs are taken by Ben Marks, unless otherwise stated.


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