The month of Ramadan is coming. This year it will start on 22nd or 23rd August 2009 depending on the sighting of the new moon. Most of us dont know what exactly is this month. What is the importance of this month to a Muslim. Even most of the Muslims dont know what is the significance of Ramadan and why the Fasting is prescribed during this month. Here I am going to give a brief introduction of Ramadan. A small attempt to bridge the gap between different Faiths. Hope you will benefit from this.
What is Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Hijri Calender (Islamic Calender). Islamic Calender is based on Lunar Calender. Because of this the month of Ramadan starts every 10 to 11 days back according to the Gregorian calender. Ramadan is an Arabic word and this name has been in practice long before the arrival of Islam in Arabia. This word is derived from the Arabic word Ramad; which means intense heat
(Fig: Ramadan starts at the sighting of new moon and ends with the sighting of new moon)
The start of Ramadan differs from location to location depending upon the geographic conditions because of the shape of Earth and the possibility of sighting the new moon which is so thin that it cannot be observed so easily.
The importance and Significance of Ramadan
Ramadan gains it significance from the momentous Islamic events which took place in it. In this month, Allah (The One God) revealed the Qur’an (the final Holy Scripture) through the angel Gabriel to the last Prophet, Muhammad. Hence Allah orders all the Muslims to observe fasting during this month.
“Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. GOD wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify GOD for guiding you, and to express your appreciation.” – Qur’an 2:185
Fasting or Siyam in Arabic, happens to be one of the five pillars of Islam. The following are the five pillars of Islam:
1. Shahadah: The declaration of Faith, saying that there is no god; but God.
2. Salah: The dail 5 prayers also called Namaz in urdu
3. Zakath: The obligatory charity. To give 2.5% of the surplus wealth to the needy. Zakath means to purify.
4. Siyam: The Fasting, during the month of Ramadan.
5. Hajj: The pilgrimage to Mecca. Once in a lifetime for thos who are physically and financially able.
The first verse which was revealed is Quran 96:01
The primary objective of Fasting is to attain “Taqwa”; an Arabic word which means “God Consciousness” or Higher consciousness. Taqwa comes from the root “wiqaya” which means prevention/protection. Having Taqwa allows a person to be constantly aware of both God’s all-encompassing knowledge and attributes and a reminder of his relationship and responsibility to God as his creation and servant.
- Helps Muslims draw closer to God through increased recitation and reflection of the Qur’an and additional prayers/worship.
- Aids in increase of iman (faith) and ihsan (sincerity and righteousness) and removal of riyya (showing off).
- Aids in purification of the heart/soul and helps to improve one’s character.
- Trains the person to do praiseworthy acts e.g. charity, kindness, generosity, patience and forgiveness.
There are lot more other benefits of Fasting. Which may include health related benefits and character related benefits also. It reminds of the suffering and hardship of the poor and hungry. Fasting is also an opportunity to practice self-control, self discipline and to cleanse the body and mind through abstentions. Physiological effects include lowering of blood sugar, cholesterol and systolic blood pressure.
What is Fasting
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. -Wikipedia
According to Islam, Fasting begins at the break of the Dawn and ends at the Sunset. During this period one has to abstain from both eating, drinking and intimacy. Even smoking is not allowed during this period. A best time for the smokers to quit smoking. One also needs to refrain from blameworthy thoughts and acts for example: foul language, vain talks, hurtful behavior and this also has to be practiced during all hours irrespective of whether you are in fasting or not.
Important Activities During Ramadan
The typical activities during Ramadan include:
- Sahoor: Meal before the Dawn (The first call to prayer or Azaan)
- Iftar: Breaking the Fast at after Sunset.
- Qirath: Recitation of the Quran. As the importance of Ramadan is because of the importance of the revelation of Quran, a Muslim tries to complete reading the whole Quran at least once in this month. More importance should be given to understanding the Qur’an
- Taraweeh: The optional prayers at early nights during the whole month. An attempt is made to recite the whole Quran in these prayers.
- Qiam-ul-Lail: Optional worshipping during the alternate late nights in the last 10 dys of Ramadan.
- Itikaaf: Period of retreat in mosque during the last 10 days or Ramadan in accordance with the believer’s own wish. During this period one cannot go out of the mosque till the Ramadan ends.
Certain other activities include Iftar party, especially given to those who fast and occasionally given to non followers of Islam. Don’t forget to ask your share of the iftar party during Ramadan.
Eid al-Fitr: The festival marking the end of Ramdan
Eid is an Arabic word which means “festivity”, while Fitr means “to break the fast” or end of fast. It is celebrated starting on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal, the month after Ramadan. It is forbidden to fast on this particular day.
Activities during Eid include:
- Zakat-ul Fitr: A prescribed amount of money or food obligatory on every Muslim, calculated to feed one poor person in his region for one day. This should be distributed before the Eid and the needy ones can celebrate their part of Eid with others.
- Eid Salah: A special Eid prayer at the early morning, but after the Sunrise.
- Visiting the family relatives, freinds, the poor, the neighbours, the sick and the elderly and wishing them prosperity.
- Gist giving: Giving modest gifts to almost all specially termed as Eidi. Young ones will be expecting this from everyone.
To greet on that day one should say Eid Mubarak.
Working With Muslim Colleagues During Ramadan
Try to avoid the following for your Muslim colleagues:
- Meetings which include lunch.
- Meetings extending after 5 p.m.
- Department parties (or social events) during Ramadan.
- Be understanding that it is the most special month in a Islamic calendar.
- Using foul language or fight with the colleague.
Other points to remember:
- It is common for a Muslim to take vacation during the last week or the last 10 days of Ramadan.
- Eid Day is off, especially for those with family.
- Greeting colleagues saying: “Ramadan Mubarak” (Blessed Ramadan) is a very nice way to cross into a new culture.
- If invited to share Iftar, try to make it. It will be fun!
- And last but not the least. Try to keep one or two Fasts during this time. (This point is not for Muslims)
To those working in Muslim countries
Holiday jams (to Muslim countries) begin less than a week before end of Ramadan till three days after Eid.
Congestion occurs on flights to and from the Gulf area during 2nd half of Ramadan (people visiting Makkah).
Traffic jams are common before iftar time. Sometimes grid-locked,
Working hours in some companies end earlier during Ramadan and end of the day is also earlier; Please plan accordingly!
Being in a Muslim country during Ramadan is a great experience. There should not be any worries.
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