The word shukr means "thankfulness". One of the obligations upon the believer is to give thanks for Allah's bounty, and in Ramadan even as we distance ourselves from our material needs during the day we re-embrace them at night with a renewed sense of appreciation. The simple act of sittig with your family and eating a meal takes on added significance, because for 11 months of the year we take it for granted.

Shukr extends beyond the rhythm of our own fasting cycle and family circle, however. As we muslims in the West go about our Ramadan routine, we still take for granted certain things - like the very freedoms in the West that permit us our free expression of faith and religious observances (and the non-inconsequential accomodation of same by our non-muslim friends and co-workers). Contrast the relative comfort and security of our Western Ramadan with an iftar in Baghdad, via Leila Fadel:

We eat quietly and on the local station Sharqiya, Mat al Hakou, (someone is dead) plays. The title of the special Ramadan series is a play on words. The Arabic word Al Hakoumat means government. The show breaks the word a part, Al Hakou Mat or Mat al Hakou, someone is dead. The edgy political satire is shot outside Iraq to safeguard the comedians' lives. They sing about everyone fleeing Iraq, "the only ones left are the government and parliament." As we finished soup and moved on to the main meal, a woman in a sparkly blue dress did stand up comedy.

"I had an argument with an American woman," the woman said, " She told me look at us, we are free. I can stand in the middle of Washington D.C. and curse the President of America."

The woman in blue rebutted the comment. Iraq is free, she insisted.

"I can stand in the middle of Baghdad and," she paused. " uh. Curse the President of America."

The table bust into laughter. No one openly criticizes the Shiite militias or Sunni extremists that control their neighborhoods. No one openly speaks about their political allegiances less there be someone in ear shot who will kill them for their beliefs.

As we go about our routine Ramadan, let us also do shukr that our fate has placed us, and our loved ones, here in the West amid safety and security, so that we can focus our minds upon piety. Let us take full advantage of that safety by redoubling our commitments to amal (action) and dua (prayer). And let's spare some of those duas for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere else in the world where muslims do not live free.

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