Every year millions of Muslim across the globe fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim calendar. It is considered as the holiest month and this year it starts from May 26 and ends on June 24. The objective of the fast is to remind the suffering of the less fortunate people and to bring the followers closer to God. As mentioned in the holy book, Quran, Muslims, during this month, are supposed to donate alms to the poor and feed the hungry.
The fast begins at dawn and must continue till dusk. In the interim eating or drinking anything is strictly prohibited. Muslims celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, one of their most important festivals, to mark the end of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a time to detach from worldly pleasures and focus on one’s prayers. During this month, Muslims spend more time at the mosque than at any other time of the year. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity, and performing the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. The month of Ramadan is a self-exercise in restraint.
Apart from offering namaz five times every day, Muslims are also expected to recite the Quran before breaking their fast. To prepare for the fast, Muslims eat what is commonly called “suhoor,” a pre-dawn meal.
The reason for fasting and ways to break it
Muslims believe that the Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed during Ramadan, the ninth month of Islamic calendar. To break the fast, a large, sumptuous feast known as “iftar” is prepared. It includes an array of different fruits, fries and other delicacies which are shared among the members of the family. Needless to say, it is a highly anticipated event, and preparations for it begin from the afternoon itself.
Across the Arab world, juices made from apricots are a staple at Ramadan iftars. In South Asia and Turkey, yogurt-based drinks are popular. Across the Muslim world, mosques and aid organisations set up tents and tables for the public to eat free “iftar” meals every night of Ramadan.
Though the Quran harps on the need to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, it also has room for some exceptions. Children, pregnant women, elderly and unwell people and girls who are menstruating are allowed not to fast.
Different traditions during Ramadan
Muslims during Ramadan generally greet each other saying, “Ramadan mubarak!” and Sunni Muslims go to the mosque at night to offer prayers, the practice is known as “taraweeh”. In Egypt, lantern called “fanoos,” which is often placed at the centre of the iftar table, can sometimes be seen hanging in window shops and balconies during Ramadan. In the Gulf countries, wealthy sheikhs hold “majlises” where they open their doors for people to pass by all hours of the night for food, tea, coffee and conversation. Several restaurants also keep their doors open till the wee hours in the morning, and offer lavish meals.
How does it end
The end of Ramadan is marked by intense prayers as Muslims seek to have their prayers answered during “Laylat al-Qadr” or “the Night of Destiny.” It is on this night, which falls during one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that Muslims believe God sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad and revealed the first versus of the Quran.
The end of the month is celebrated with grandeur and celebrations. Children wear new clothes, and people visit their friends and relatives, and together celebrate the holy festival – Eid al-Fitr.
– With inputs from AP