The month of Ramzan


By: Ali Tarab Rizvi (LT S&L)

The month of Ramzan or Ramadan is here, with Muslims all over the world fasting, praying and giving charity. The month which begins with sighting of the first crescent of the new moon, sees observant Muslims fasting from dawn to dusk while managing their day to day chores. Let’s have a simplified glance over some key aspects of this month.

Ramzan-An introduction

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Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered sacred as the Holy Qur’an was revealed in this month to Prophet Muhammad. Hence, it is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting. Since the Islamic calendar is 11 days shorter than the Western calendar, hence the month of Ramzan migrates through seasons.

Chapter 2, Verse 185 of Qur’an states:

“The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Qur’an; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.”

Fasting

Fasting or Sawm as it is termed in Arabic is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It was made obligatory in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina. The fasting is intended to bring the faithful closer to Allah and to remind of the sufferings of those less fortunate.

People observing fast refrain from eating and drinking, or any sexual activity from Dawn to Dusk for the entire month. Fasting is an exercise of self-restraint, and one should not engage in cursing, fighting or gossiping. One also abstains from impulses like morning coffee, smoking and mid-day snacking.

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Devotees praying around the Kaaba inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

While fasting, the people are encouraged to observe the daily prayers on time and to recite Qur’an to intensify the remembrance of God. In addition, Sunni Muslims also offer prayers called ‘Taraweeh’ at mosques in late evenings.

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Believers offering “Taraweeh” prayers in the front of the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Israel

The purpose of fasting is specifically mentioned in the Qur’an.  The chapter 2, Verse 183 states:

“O Ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.”

The consecutive Verse 184 says:

“(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will; it is better for him. And it is better for you that you fast, if only you know.”

Fasting is exempted for those who are ill or travelling, as the above verse states. However, a person has to compensate by fasting in later days, if it is possible for him/her. Besides, feeding those who are poor is also recommended in lieu of this abstinence. Besides, children and pregnant women are exempted from compulsory fasting. Fasting is also not obligatory for those who suffer from severe health conditions.

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A man helps his kid recite the dua for breaking the fast.

Breaking the fast deliberately before the prescribed time is sinful and is seriously discouraged. However, if someone breaks fast due to any serious health problem, that person can compensate by fasting in later days.

Suhoor

It is the pre-fast meal which is taken before the commencement of the fast. The stipulated time for suhoor ends shortly before the timings of the morning (Fajr) prayer.

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Drummers wearing traditional clothes wake people up for Suhoor in Istanbul, Turkey

In many countries, there is a tradition of a group of people roaming around in the streets to wake up people for suhoor during Ramzan.

 Iftar

It is the evening meal taken to break the day-long fast. The time for this meal is shortly after the evening (Maghrib) prayer. Traditionally, people break their fasts with Dates and water. However, a lot of regional delicacies are prepared and savored in the Iftar meal.

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A shopkeeper pours honey over Chebakia pastries, a local delicacy, before iftar in Rabat, Morocco

Social gatherings during Ramzan are frequent at iftar. Traditional dishes, including desserts, and dishes prepared only during Ramzan are served in a buffet style.

Laylat-al Qadr

Laylat-al Qadr (Shab-e-Qadr in Urdu) or the Night of Decree, the night of 23rd Ramzan is the holiest night of the year, as the first revelation of Qur’an occurred at this very night.

As stated in Chapter 97, Verse 3 of Qur’an, “This night is better than one thousand months (of proper worship).”

Hence, it is considered sacred for Muslims to stay awake all the night and pray.

Apart from this, Shi’a Muslims commemorate the death anniversary of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib on 21st Ramzan and pray overnight.

Eid Al-Fitr

Eid Al-Fitr is the day celebrated worldwide marking the end of Ramzan. It is a celebration for the successful completion of the fasting period. On this day, people offer prayers in mosques and gathering halls known as Eidgah.

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Children greeting each other after the Eid prayer at Jama Masjid in Delhi, India

On this day, people meet their relatives and friends, and greet each other. A lot of traditional dishes are prepared on this day with people hosting feasts at their homes. The most common dish in the Indian subcontinent is Sewaiyaan or Sheer Korma prepared from Vermicelli, milk and sugar.

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Sheer Korma

Gifts are often exchanged and children are given small sum of money called Eidi by elders. People often visit Bazaar and shopping malls for Eid shopping. Women apply Mehendi, or Henna, on their hands and wear colourful bangles.

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Women buying shoes at a local market ahead of Eid Al-Fitr in Karachi, Pakistan

Disclaimer: The photos are taken from the internet mostly from leading newspaper webpages.