Ramadan

Ramadan, also known as Ramazan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting.

Updated: June 16, 2022


Ramadan, also known as Ramazan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramia or ar-rama, which means scorching heat or dryness. Fasting is obligatory for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, traveling, are elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, chronically ill or menstruating.

The holy Muslim month of Ramadan is a fantastic opportunity to feast on fresh street food. During Ramadan, Muslims traditionally fast daily from sunrise until sunset. In the evenings, the streets in traditional Muslim areas are flooded with people and the tantalizing aroma of meat and other variety of food. The revelry continues all night. Ramadan concludes with he festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, with more feasting and shopping.

Significance of Ramadan:

Fasting during Ramadan is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities. Its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate. Thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat).

Muslims refrain not only from food and drink, but also form tobacco products, sexual relations, and sinful behavior. They are rather engagedin activities like salat (prayer), recitation of the Quran, and the performance of charitable deeds as they strive for purity and heightened awareness of God (taqwa). All scripture of muslim was revealed during Ramadan. The scrolls of Abraham, Torah, Psalms, Gospel, and Quran having been handed down on the first, sixth, twelfth, thirteenth, eighteenth and twenty-fourth Ramadans, respectively. Muhammed is said to have received his first quranic revelation on Laylat al-Qadr. This is one of five odd-numbered nights that fall during the last ten days of Ramadan. The practice of fasting has always been necessary for believers to attain taqwa (the fear of God).

Celebration of Ramadan:

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The first and last dates of Ramadan are determined by the lunar Islamic calendar. The 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th night of Ramadan are called as Taq-raat and are considered as important.

The opening of Ramadan is done by direct visual observation of the crescent moon. 

Muslims fast from dawn until sunset during Ramadan. They refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations. Muslims are also instructed to refrain from sinful behavior such as false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting except in self-defense. Pre-fast meals before dawn are referred to as Suhoor, while the post-fast breaking feasts after sunset are called Iftar. Spiritual rewards (thawab) for fasting are also believed to be multiplied within the month of Ramadan. Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes the increased offering of salat (prayers), recitation of the Quran and an increase of doing good deeds and charity. 

Every day, before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called the suhoor. After stopping a short time before dawn, they begin the first prayer of the day called as Fajr. At sunset, families gather for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar. Dates are usually the first food to break the fast according to tradition as Muhammad broke fast with three dates. Following that, Muslims generally adjourn for the Maghrib prayer, which is the fourth of the five daily prayers. The main meal is served after the prayer. Many times social gatherings in a buffet style, are frequent at iftar. Traditional dishes are often highlighted, including traditional desserts, and particularly those made only during Ramadan.

Charity is very important in Islam. During Ramadan, the importance of charity is even more. Zakat, is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam. It is a fixed percentage of the person's savings is required to be given to the poor, also called as 'the poor-rate'. Sadaqah is voluntary charity in giving above and beyond what is required from the obligation of zakat.

Tarawih refers to extra prayers performed by Muslims at night in the Islamic month of Ramadan. Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran during the month of Ramadan although it is not compulsory. Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Quran by means of special prayers, called Tarawih. These voluntary prayers are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Quran (juz', which is 1/30 of the Quran) is recited. Therefore, the entire Quran would be completed at the end of the month. 

Night of Power:

The holiest night of the year is Laylat al-Qadr. It generally occurrs on an odd-numbered night during the last ten days of Ramadan. The Dawoodi Bohra believe that Laylat al-Qadr was the twenty-third night of Ramadan.

Eid:

Muslims observe strict fast called 'Rozah' from sunrise to sunset each day during Ramadan. They practice absolute abstinence during the month of Ramadan and dedicate most of their time in the devotion of Allah and his teachings. During this period they are abstain from all kind of worldly pleasure. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal. Shawwal is the next lunar month, which is declared after a crescent new moon has been sighted or after completion of thirty days of fasting if no sighting of the moon is possible.

Religious practices:

The common practice during Ramdan is to fast from dawn to sunset. Suhur is the pre-dawn meal before the fast, while Iftar is the meal at sunset that breaks the fast.

It is believed that when Ramadan arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up and devils are put in chains. So either out of fear or devotion, muslims devote more time to prayer and acts of charity, striving to improve their self-discipline.

Fasting:

Fasting during Ramdan heightened devotion and worship. The fast called as sawm, begins at dawn and ends at sunset. In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking during this time, Muslims abstain from sexual relations and sinful speech and behaviour, there by putting more effort into following the teachings of Islam. 

Fasting helps to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, as well as cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Muslims believe that Ramadan teaches them to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate, thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat).

People who are traveling, menstruating, severe ill, pregnant, and breastfeeding can avoid fasting. However, many Muslims with medical conditions insist on fasting to satisfy their spiritual needs, although it is not recommended by hadith. Those unable to fast are obligated make up the missed days late.

Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called the suhoor before dawn everyday during fasting. They begin the first prayer of the day after stopping a short time before dawn. Families break the fast with the iftar at sunset. Ttraditionally they open the meal by eating dates to commemorate Muhammad's practice of breaking the fast with three dates. They then adjourn for the fourth of the five required daily prayers called as Maghrib. After this the main meal is served.

Most of the times social gatherings in buffet style, are frequent at iftar. Traditional dishes are often highlighted, including traditional desserts, particularly those made only during Ramadan. Water is the usual beverage used. But juice, milk, soft drinks and caffeinated beverages are also often available.

In the Middle East, iftar consists of water, juices, dates, salads and appetizers. Typical main dishes include lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables, and roasted chicken served with chickpea-studded rice pilaf. Desserts may include luqaimat, baklava or kunafeh.

Ramadan fasting is safe for healthy people, but those with medical conditions should seek medical advice if they experience health problems before or during fasting. The fasting period is usually associated with modest weight loss. According to summer or winter solstices of the Sun, the length of the dawn to sunset time varies in different parts of the world. Therefore the duration of fasting aslo varies region to region. Most Muslims fast for eleven to sixteen hours during Ramadan. However, in polar regions, the period between dawn and sunset may exceed twenty-two hours in summer.

Charity:

A believer is required to give 2.5% of his income to the poor. This is fixed and the practice is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam. Muslims believe that good deeds are rewarded more handsomely during Ramadan than at any other time of the year
Therefore many people donate a larger portion or even all of their yearly zakat during this month.

Nightly prayers:

Tarawih are extra nightly prayers performed during the month of Ramadan.

Recitation of the Quran:

Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran over the thirty days of Ramadan. The Quran comprises thirty sections called as juz'. Some Muslims incorporate a recitation of one juz' into each of the thirty tarawih sessions observed during the month.

Celebration in Various Region:

In some Islamic countries, lights are strung up in public squares and across city streets. This tradition believed to have originated during the Fatimid Caliphate, where the rule of Caliph al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah was acclaimed by people holding lanterns.

On the island of Java, many believers bathe in holy springs to prepare for fasting. This ritual is known as Padusan. The city of Semarang marks the beginning of Ramadan with the Dugderan carnival, which involves parading the Warak ngendog, a horse-dragon hybrid creature allegedly inspired by the Buraq. 

In the Chinese-influenced capital city of Jakarta, firecrackers are widely used to celebrate Ramadan, although they are officially illegal. Most employees receive a one-month bonus known as Tunjangan Hari Raya towards the end of Ramadan. 

In Central Java, large beef or buffalo in Aceh and snails is a kind of food that are especially popular during Ramadan. The iftar meal is announced every evening by striking the bedug, a giant drum, in the mosque. Common greetings during Ramadan include Ramadan mubarak and Ramadan kareem.

In the Middle East, a mesaharati beats a drum across a neighbourhood to wake people up to eat the suhoor meal during Ramadan. Similarly in Southeast Asia, the kentongan slit drum is used for the same purpose. 

Southeast Asia, South Asia, Middle East and North Africa, and most of Sub-Saharan Africa are some of the regions with high percentages of fasting among Muslims. Not observing the Ramadan fast is a crime in some Muslim countries. The sale of alcohol is prohibited in Egypt. There is a penalty for eating, drinking or smoking during daytime in Kuwait. It is a fine of more than one hundred Kuwaiti dinar or incarceration for no more than one month, or both. Eating or drinking in public is considered as a minor offense and is punishable by up to one hundred fifty hours of community service in some United Arab Emirates jurisdictions.

In Saudi Arabia, Ramadan is taken more seriously than anywhere else. They may impose harsher punishments, including flogging, imprisonment and, for foreigners, deportation for not observing Ramadan.

In Malaysia, breaking the fast prior to sundown may result in arrest by the religious police, while the sale of food, drink, or tobacco for immediate consumption can incur a fine of up to one thousand ringgit and six months' imprisonment, penalties that are doubled for repeat offenses.[80] Courts in Algeria have imposed fines and prison sentences for violations of Ramadan regulations. Some countries even modify their work schedules during Ramadan. In the UAE, employees may work no more than six hours per day and thirty-six hours per week. Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait have similar laws.

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