Every year, during the month of Ramadan or Ramzaan, friends, colleagues and acquaintances alike become intrigued with their Muslim counterparts who are suddenly not meeting them for lunch, refraining from using bad language, become more frequent with prayers, those who do enjoy their tipple now and then are suddenly abstaining and then there are parts in the city that are suddenly mobilized into Muslims hubs for feasting after fasting. MyBangalore attempts to give a clearer picture about Ramadan.
What is Ramadan and when does the month begin?
Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Calender (lunar calendar)
and a month where it is made obligatory on all Muslims across the world, from dawn to dusk, to abstain from eating, drinking or indulging in activities that are sexual in nature. Islam follows the lunar calendar as does the Jewish community. This year, Ramadan begun on August 12 in India. The date may differ globally depending on the sighting of the moon. This concludes again with the sighting of the moon and the Eid celebration.
What do Muslims do during Ramadan?
Fasting or Rozas are one of the five pillars of a Muslims faith, which every devout Muslim finds the basis of his/her faith in. This includes, Belief in one God –Allah; Praying 5 times a day- Namaaz/ Salaath; Fasting or Rozas in the month of Ramadan; Giving Zakat or Charity and finally making a pilgrimage – Hajj to Mecca, at least once in their lifetime, it they are able (physically, financially). During the month of Ramadan, Muslims also do believe in sharing their personal wealth with the less fortunate, this in the form of charity and sharing and distribution of food.The idea of fasting, is also to remind us of those who are less fortunate than ourselves.Giving generously to the poor and establishments that work with the poor is recommended.
Why do Muslims fast for a month?
For Muslims, fasting is meant to bring discipline to the body and mind by consciously refusing your body: food, drinks and other pleasures that it is used to. This makes it an ideal time for concentrating ones energies towards praying, reading Islamic literature, while going about your regular work and chores. This month of giving up food and drink in the hours when one is accustomed to eating is also a reminder to be grateful for all the pleasures that we with our urban/modern lifestyles are privy to. The month equips us to be better individuals with stronger faith.
Who is exempt from fasting?
Children who have not yet reached puberty, or those who have a medical condition, or have to take medication. Muslims who have medical conditions where they need to take medication or if fasting worsens their conditions. Also pregnant women or women on their menstruation cycle as well are too old do not have to fast. In some circumstances, individuals who cannot fast for any number of reasons may make up the fast at a later date. Also people who are traveling, or due to some reasons miss their fast, are then encouraged to make up their fasts alter.
Do Muslims not eat for an entire month?
No. Muslims only abstain from eating and drinking during the day when the sun is up during this holy month. The way it works is that Muslims, who are observing their fasts wake up just before Dawn, which in Bangalore is before 4:45 AM in the morning, and have a meal, like breakfast. They then offer Fajr prayers (namaaz), after which some may go back to sleep for a while before waking up for work or others might devote the early morning hours to recitation of the Quran and then starting off their day. The fast is then broken at Sunset, with a meal called the Iftaar, which is traditionally broken with dates and a cooling sherbet.
How does fasting encourage people towards having stronger faith?
During Ramadan, a lot of people take vows and pledge to make constructive and positive changes in their lives. Which could be to more righteously pray five times a day, read the Quran regularly, lose weight, give up bad habits etc. Not unlike resolutions you make during the New Years. This time also makes Muslims aware to their bigger duties. Also, Muslims, in order to pass the time during their fast, are encouraged to abstain from listening to non-spiritual or entertaining music or watching movies. Music and movies do influence ideas and desires, which could lead one away from the prime focus devotion of energies and mental faculties to God.
What kind of Duties are Muslims encouraged to observe?
These are the duties that one has towards God and the faith that one is born into. Here being more spiritual and having a deeper insight into what faith means to oneself are aspects that people do delve into. As young, urban Muslims will admit, like most people from various faiths too, that they would like to know and understand their religion better, in order to better follow its tenets as well as understand why something is right or wrong. The month of Ramadan allows people to reflect their religious identity. A lot of people even begin reading the Islamic Scriptures, or the Quran. Some even attempt to learn Arabic to understand the original text for themselves or reading translations of the Quran in English or their ethnic languages. This does become a time for many to gain spiritual and religious enlightenment.
Why during this particular month?
It is believed that during a night in this special month, the Quran , the Islamic Holy Book was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed by Angel Gabriel. The beauty of the Quran lies in the fact, that it was not a written text, but a text which was passed on my word of mouth from an angel to the beloved Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). It is believed the books that were revealed earlier, with other prophets, was changed by people to suit their earthly needs. Also, it is believed that during Ramadan, Satan, who God has given a free reign to challenge people and their faith, is believed to be chained and his powers diminished, allowing devout Muslims from a little safe guard against temptation and going astray. So during this month, people who do sin or commit evil, it will be born of their own hearts and this time Satan will not bear the brunt of the blame.
What are Muslims prohibited from, during Ramadan?
Normally these are things that are prohibited in Islam like drinking alcohol, smoking, extra-martial relationships etc, and there are other things which are generally considered bad to society like being disrespectful, using abusive language, spending excessive time in wasteful activates etc. Ramadan is basically a good time to implement positive changes and work towards a better and healthier living and lifestyle.
Are their any rewards apart from heightened faith and more knowledge?
God has promised the Muslims who observe Ramadan, that their good thoughts, actions and deeds during this month will be rewarded manifold and hence the more one prayers and spends time in worship, there are chances of gaining more points with the Almighty. By the same token, sins and bad deeds will invite only greater punishment.
What is he Iftaar, the feast after the fast?
Muslims break their fast at the time of Iftaar, at sunset, when the evening prayers are announced. Here Muslims normally break their fast with Dates, frutis, whole wheat, pulses, and nutrition and energy providing foods. There is no restriction on what one eats. As Ramadan is a month of discipline and self restraint, after breaking fast, it is not necessary that people should gorge themselves silly, but try and maintain balance while eating. Overeating after a fast can cause problems like acidity. People if their are inviting their friends and families homes, to break fast with them are encouraged to serve a more elaborate meal. Eating together during Ramadan is considered virtuous and noble and helps strengthen bonds.
Ramadan, fasting and worship is all made a lot easier, as Muslim all over the world are observing this month together, which acts as solidarity and also makes it a larger support group. Also it’s a good time to bury old hatchets and work towards building relationships. This adds to the spirit of fasting and Ramadan and also becomes a time for people to share food and good thoughts. The idea here is for Muslims to fast as an exercise in self-discipline and obedience to God and then breaking the fast together, is almost like a celebration.
When does Ramadan end?
When the approximately 30 days to the month of Ramadan come to an end, again with the sighing of the moon. This is celebrated with Eid, or 'Id, means 'festival' or 'celebration' in Arabic.