Welcome to a celebration of the holiest month of Ramadan in Islamic calendar. Ramazan is a month of Quran revelation. This month is observed by billions of Muslims all over the world with great urge, enthusiasm and celebration. Muslims believe that Ramadan is a time for spiritual purification achieved through fasting, self-sacrifice and prayers.
This religious month is celebrated among Muslim community during the ninth month of Islamic calendar, the fast is observed each day from sunrise to sunset. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five Pillars of Islam and source of avoidance from evils.
Ramadan brings 3-day festival known as “Eid” or “Eid ul-Fitr,” which literally means “the feast of the breaking/to break the fast.” The holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and is a culmination of the month-long struggle towards a higher spiritual state.
What is Ramadan? This question comes to our mind many times when we come across the word Ramadan. The answer to this question is, Ramadan is the ninth month of Islamic calendar. It is a belief that in the month of Ramadan the Holy book of Muslims, Quran was sent down from heaven as guidance for men and also as a direction and a means to Salvation. Ramadan is the month of fast. The entire month Muslims fast with no water and food during the daytime. Muslims have food only before the sunrises and after sunsets. The day starts with eating of the suhoor. Suhoor is the meal eaten by the Muslims who fast before the sun rises. Once suhoor is done then Muslims who fast cannot eat or drink the whole day. In the evening when the sun sets then they have another meal called If tar. To open the fast they pray and have Iftar meal. Once Iftar is over Muslims visit their relative’s house and early in the morning sets back to the fast.
During Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from looking at unlawful things. The hand must not touch or take anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In such a way, every part of the body observes the fast.
Therefore, fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the total commitment of the person’s body and soul to the spirit of the fast. Ramadan is a time to practice self-restraint; a time to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and re-focus one’s self on the worship of God.
Holy Ramadan is the month of fasting, intensive prayer, sacrifice and Divine worship. Throughout this month a devout Muslim fasts during the day in the true sense of the word, that is, he had merely denies himself food and water, but as explained by Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), exercises strict control over his tongue, eyes, ears, thoughts and deeds and does everything possible to seek the pleasure of Allah (SWT).
Devout supplications to Allah (SWT) and repentance of one’s sins during Holy Ramazan are the sources of Divine blessings and mercy. Some nights, among the last ten nights of Ramadan, are called the ‘Nights of Glory’ (Laylatul Qadr). These are the 19th, 21st, and 23rd nights. Muslims keep awake during these nights and offer special prayers. Even among these nights, the 23rd enjoys excellence over all the others. It is accompanied by great blessings, and he usually grants the supplications made to Allah (SWT) during this night.
The month of holy Ramadan, besides being the month of worship and Divine blessings, carries a historical importance as well. As already mentioned above, the revelations of the Holy Quran commenced in this month. The epoch-making ‘Battle of Badr and the ‘Conquest of Makkah‘ also took place during the holy month of Ramadan.
“Ramadan”, according to some traditions is one of Allah’s names. This is why we can not say Ramadan without making it clear that we are talking about the month, and therefore we should always say the month of Ramazan. Commander of the faithful, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (A.S.) said: Do not say Ramadan, but say the month of Ramazan. For you do not know what Ramadan is? This same meaning was referred to by Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) in his speech during Shaaban: The month of Allah (SWT) is coming… Let us:
- Learn Islam with ambition,
- Observe Islam with sincerity,
- Practice Islam with discipline (Sunnah),
- Spread Islam with truth and kindness.
Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?
The first reason of course, is that fasting is a requirement of one of the Five Pillars of Islam. What is important, however, is to appreciate the reasons behind the fasting, what those reasons signify and what this means to fasting Muslims.
It is most important to a Muslim to show intent in the fast. It is required that they recite short prayer of intent either before they sleep or just before Suhoor, the pre-fast meal.
The Arabic word for fasting means to ‘refrain’, to discipline yourself to avoid doing certain things which would be quite normal during the other twelve months of the year. It is also meant to teach Muslims to appreciate how much better off they are than millions of other fellow Muslims. So by refraining from drinking (even water) and food, for the long daylight hours, they should be reminded of those much less fortunate, for whom severe shortage of water and food is a way of life, not something merely done one month of the year. By reminding themselves of this fact, it is hoped that not only will they be more sensitive to those less fortunate, but to try to do something practical to help them.
How is the end of Ramadan celebrated around the world?
Wherever a Muslim resides, be it in one of the Middle East countries, in Indonesia (the country with the world’s largest Muslim population), or even in London, Paris or Dearborn, Michigan, they will start their end of Ramadan celebrations by going to the mosque for special congregational prayers which give thanks to God for His blessings during the Holy month of Ramadan, now ended. Both men and women may go to the mosque at this time, but the men will say their prayers separately from the women.
Many will return to their family home for Ramadan, usually where their parents are living, and in Indonesia and Malaysia this is known as Balik Kampung. Paying homage to their parents is a very important part of the celebrations, when the younger Muslims will ask their parents for forgiveness for misdeeds during the year, and kiss their hands as a sign of respect.
They return home (or go to the homes of family and friends) to continue their celebration, which in Arabic is called Eid Al Fitr. The meals prepared will reflect the culture and traditions of the country from which the Muslim family is living in or hails. For those who are now residing in western countries, it can be fascinating to find the end of Ramadan celebrations of Muslims from India, Pakistan, Arab countries, Malaysia, Indonesia or even European countries, reflected in the variety of food on the table.