Practices During During The Holy Month Of Ramadan
Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان Ramaḍān, IPA: [rɑmɑˈdˤɑːn]; variations Persian: Ramazān; Urdu:Ramzān; Turkish: Ramazan) is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days according to the visual sightings of the crescent moon according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in Hadiths. It is the Muslim month offasting, in which Muslims refrain from dawn until sunset from eating, drinking, and sexual relations.
The sawab (rewards) of fasting are many, but in this month, they are believed to be multiplied. Muslims fast in this month for the sake of demonstrating submission to God and to offer more prayers and Quran recitations.
In the Quran;
Chapter 2, Revelation 185 of the Quran states:
The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.
Thus, via the Quran, Muslims are informed that Muhammad, first received revelations in the lunar month of Ramadan. Therefore, the month of Ramadan is considered to be the most sacred month of the months of the lunar Islamic calendar, the recording of which began with the Hijra.
The beginning of Ramadan;
Hilāl (the crescent) is typically a day (or more) after the astronomical new moon. Since the new moon indicates the beginning of the new month, Muslims can usually safely estimate the beginning of Ramadan. However, to many Muslims, this is not in accordance with authenticated Hadiths stating that visual confirmation per region is recommended. Nevertheless, the consistent variations of a day have existed since the time of Muhammad.
Practices during Ramadan;
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual intercourse among spouses is allowed after one has ended the daily fast. During fasting, intercourse is prohibited as well as eating and drinking, and resistance of all temptations is encouraged. Purity of both thoughts and actions is important. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also teaches Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity (Zakat).
It becomes compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. The elderly, the chronically ill, and the mentally ill are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed the poor in place of their missed fasting. Also exempt are pregnant women if they believe it would be harmful to them or the unborn baby, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns. A difference of opinion exists among Islamic scholars as to whether this last group must make up the days they miss at a later date, or feed poor people as a recompense for days missed. While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavour to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life. Lastly, those traveling (musaafir) are exempt, but must make up the days they miss. More specifically, Twelver Shī‘ah define those who travel more than 14 mi (23 km) in a day are exempt.
Increased prayer and recitation of the Quran;
In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran. Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Quran by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, which 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. However it is not required to read the whole Quran in the Salatul Tarawih.
Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment; this is to establish a link between themselves and God through prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others. Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it; this can involve buying new clothes, shoes and other items of need. There is also a social aspect involving the preparation of special foods and inviting people for Iftar.
Iftar in Sultan Ahmed Mosque inIstanbul,Turkey
Over time, Iftar has grown into banquet festivals. This is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities, but may also occupy larger spaces at mosques or banquet halls, where a hundred or more may gather at a time.
Charity (Zakat) (Sadaqa);
Charity is very important in Islam, and even more so during Ramadan. Zakat, often translated as “the poor-rate”, is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam; a fixed percentage required to be given by those with savings. Sadaqa is voluntary charity in given above and beyond what is required from the obligation of zakat. Muslims believe that all good deeds are more handsomely rewarded in Ramadan than in any other month of the year. Consequently, many will choose this time to give a larger portion, if not all, of the zakat for which they are obligated to give. In addition, many will also use this time to give a larger portion of sadaqa in order to maximize the reward they believe will await them on the Day of Judgment.
In many Muslim countries, it is not uncommon to see people giving more food to the poor and the homeless, and even to see large public areas for the poor to come and break their fast. It is said that if a person helps a fasting person to break their fast, then they receive a reward for that fast, without diminishing the reward that the fasting person got for their fast.(citation needed)
Even in non-Muslim countries, no matter how small the Muslim population, a consistent increase in charitable donations to both fellows Muslims and non-Muslims occurs more so in this month. In the USA, for example, many Muslim communities dispersed throughout the country, participate in contributing food, clothes and non-perishable food items to local charities.
Sometimes referred to as “the night of decree or measures”, Laylat al-Qadr is considered the most holy night of the year. Muslims believe that it is the night in which the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad, as stated in Chapet 97 of the Qu’ran. Also, Laylat al-Qadr is believed to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during the last 10 days of Ramadan, either the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th.(citation needed)
The end of Ramadan
The Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر, festivity of breaking the fast), sometimes spelled in English as Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month called Shawwal in Arabic. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or if no visual sighting was possible due to weather the completion of 30 days of fasting. This first day of Shawwal is called Eid ul-Fitr. Eid Ul-Fitr, may also be a reference towards the festive nature of having endured the month of fasting successfully and returning to the more natural disposition (fitra) of being able to eat, drink and resume intimacy with spouses during the day.
For the manner in which the Eid is celebrated, see Eid ul-Fitr and Salat al Eid.
Ramadan lantern decorations
Ramadan in the Old City of Jerusalem
Various cultural additions are mistakenly associated as part of the original celebrations arising from the time of Muhammad. However, this is not so with many of forms that the celebration has taken in various cultures and countries. For example, no symbols of Ramadan were evident in any scholarly literature of Muhammad’s lifetime, yet in some places Ramadan is met with various decorations throughout the streets.
For example, in some Muslim countries today lights are strung up in public squares, and across city streets, to add to the festivities of the month. In Egypt, lanterns have become symbolic of Ramadan. They are hung across the cities of Egypt, part of an 800 year old tradition, the origin of which is said to lie in the Fatimid era where the Caliph Al-Muizz Lideenillah was greeted by people holding lanterns to celebrate his ruling. From that time lanterns were used to light mosques and houses throughout the city. In the West, many Muslim households have taken to decorating the inside of their homes to make Ramadan a more special time for their children. Usually parents buy new clothes and toys for their children or give them money.
It is still common to observe Salat al Eid which was the tradition of Muhammad.
Non-spiritual (secular) curiosities;
Difference between the lunar calendar and the solar calendar;
Compared to the solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary, moving backwards by about eleven days each year depending on the moon; thus, a person will have fasted every day of the Gregorian calendar year in 34 years’ time.
Non-Arabic texts about Ramadan;
The month of Ramadan was in existence before Islam. Ramadan existed before Islam as one of the twelve months of the Arabic lunar calendar. However, it was not called Ramadan during those times.
From the writings of Abu Zanad, an Arabic writer from Iraq who lived around 747 A.D. (after the founding of Islam), we conclude that at least one Mandaean community located in northern Iraq observed Ramadan. Abu Zanad and Abdel Allah ibn Zakwan Abi al-Zanad mentioned that Ramadan originally had pagan roots in India and the Middle East. Ramadan was a pagan ceremony practiced by the Sabians, whether they were Harranians orSabians.
Thus, those days are commonly referred to as Jahilliyah, as Muhammad used to call those times himself, according to numerous biographical accounts of his life. In regards to Ramadan since the advent of Islam, it wasn’t until after believing in the form of Abrahamic monotheism led by Muhammad that Ramadan became obligatory for fasting. Thus, we live to see that since that time, Ramadan has come to be associated as one of the major obligatory tenets of Islam.
Dispute of the literal meaning of the word Ramadan;
The word Ramadan is derived from an Arabic root R-M-Ḍ, as in words like “ramiḍa” or “ar-ramaḍ” denoting intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of rations. Ramadan, as a name for the month, is of Islamic origin. Prior to Islam and the exclusion of intercalary days from the Islamic calendar, the name of the month was Natiq and the month fell in the warm season. This pre-Islamic period became commonly referred to as the Period of Ignorance. However, when God fulfilled His Covenant with Abraham to make Prophets of his lineage by choosing Muhammad — who was of the lineage of Ishmael (brother of Isaac – by Revealing the first of the Quran the period of Arabia’s ignorance of the monotheism of the Children of Israel came to an end. This first Revelation was sent down during this month. Furthermore, God proclaimed to Muhammad that fasting for His Sake was not a new innovation in monotheism, but rather an obligation practiced by those truly devoted to The Oneness of God. One such example of those whom observed fasting before Islamwere the Jews who had migrated to Medinah awaiting the foretold unlettered Prophet. This may or may not be referring to theJewish practice of fasting on Yom Kippur.
It is possible that the obligation to fast during Ramadan comes from early injunction to fast on Ashura, the 10th day of the month of Muharram, which may have once been identical with the Jewish observance of the Day of Atonement. This obligation, however, was ended by the command to fast during Ramadan instead in the Quran verse 2:184.
Although having no significant effect on the practices observed today, the derivation of the name Ramadan is in some dispute. Many believe that it comes from the Arabic “ramad”, which means scorching, and is perhaps a reference to the idea that the fast “scorches” away human sins. During pre-Islamic times the month of Ramadan was observed in Arabia, as a month when the various tribes observed a truce from any existing hostilities. However, it wasn’t until after the Prophethood of Muhammad that Ramadan became associated with religious monotheism, and has been observed as such ever since.