Imagine yourself spending Ramadan in Egypt. It’s 2 a.m. You wake up early morning for Suhoor, but only to the sounds of drums playing outside your window – what is this phenomenon called you wonder?
Through history, the ancient practice of Misaharaty, or al Mashaharati is recognized as one of the oldest forms of customs carried out during the holy month of Ramadan. When one walks down the street rising morning and plays the drums and recites words commemorating the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran, he or she is awarded the title of Al Mashaharati.
As Al Mashaharati, the purpose for waking up everyone before the sunrise is so that people can eat for Suhoor, a meal Muslims have before fasting. The designated drummers set out to conduct their duties essentially from 1-3 a.m. in the morning.
According to sources and historical background, Al Mashaharatis are to found in Lebanon, Egypt, Oman, Yemen, and in nearby nations. The al Mashaharati has a distinctive voice that is bound to wake those who are fasting up for Suhoor, so they can eat and then do the morning prayer with ease.
At times the Mashaharati are found to be given coins, food, and money while waking people up to begin their fast; and although some choose to take their given amount as donation money, others refuse it saying that the task assigned as a Mashaharati is not a Profession, but a tradition. The essence of tradition must be continued on in order to preserve the remnants of the past.
As al Mashaharati needs to know the location of the areas needing to be woken up for Suhoor, there is a zealous amount of respect and admiration for them, as he or she performs his or her duties all around the neighborhood. Al Mashaharati usually have areas, nearby places and people memorized in order to know their way around.
Some people have argued that with expedite growth in technology, there has been less of a need for a Mashaharati, due to the usage of cell-phones, apps, alarm clocks, etc. Yet, in particular cities, such as Tripoli, Lebanon, several accounts have stated that Ramadan would be “incomplete” without the traditional Mashaharati.
Some Mashaharatis have been doing their duties for 15-28 years while a few specifically have an ancestry linked to it. Al Mashaharati have argued that “It is a kind of worship, because we are paid by doing things related to the praising of the oneness of God, and praying to our dear Prophet Muhammad.”