Ramadan is a special month cherished by Muslims. During this one month every year, Muslims fast (saum) as part of one Five Pillars of Islam. The daily period of fasting starts at the break of dawn and ends at sunset. Muslims completely abstain from food, drink, smoking, foul language and marital sex. Even President Obama has urged to halt force-feeding at Guantánamo during Ramadan. Before sunrise many Muslims have the Suhur or pre-dawn meal. At sunset families and friends gather for Iftar which is the meal eaten by Muslims to break their fast. Ramadan is a time of self-examination, increased religious devotion, and introspection. Contrary to some beliefs, fasting is obligatory for all adult Muslims, except those who are insane, ill (including those with diabetes), traveling, pregnant or females visiting their monthly gift from mother nature.
2. When Is Ramadan ?
The moon marking the beginning of the holy month was not sighted on Monday night. Muslims use the sighting of the new moon (Hilal) to determine the arrival of a new month. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. By normal standards, all Muslims observe Ramadan the same day. However, there has been some conflict of interest over the past few years where countries began Ramadan at different dates but the official source declaring the first day will be presented by Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Judicial Council. The first day of Ramadan will start this year on July 10th, 2013.
Ramadan provides a mean to sacrifice superficiality which has become abundant in our everyday lives. Ramadan teaches Muslims self-discipline and empathy for less fortunate individuals and families. Charity (Zakat is Arabic) is an integral part of Ramadan and also one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims are urged to give charity especially during Ramadan. In Islam all good deeds are rewarded but even more so during Ramadan.
Ramadan is also a time of culture tradition. Arab families buy colorful lamps and light fixtures that hang in front of their homes during this holy month. The array of lights shine bright during the night and reflect into the sky. In the middle east, streets are quiet during the day but are bustling during the evening hours. Businesses are open for and restaurants are full through twilight hours. Family and friends gather after Iftar during evening hours with a variety of sweets to rejoice with one another. Middle eastern & Indian pastry shops are extremely busy during Ramadan in New York City. It is not unusual to see lines half way down the street to buy a plate of sandy cookies and homemade candies. Also religious constitutions such as Islamic Centers and Mosques will have nightly dinners for the community.
In addition to nightly dinners, Muslims reflect about their lives and draw closer to god through prayer. During the evening Muslims will also pray a special evening prayer called Taraweeh. Part of the prescribed discipline, followers will pray throughout the night.
4. What is Laylat Al Qadr (لیلة القدر) ?
Laylat al-Qadr (also known as Night of Power) is believed to be the night when the Quran was first revealed. Laylat al-Qadar is found to be on the last nights of Ramadan. Mostly it is on one of the odd nights and many traditions insist particularly on the night of the 27th of Ramadan.
5. What is Eid al-Fitr (عيد الفطر)?
After Ramadan Eid Al Firt is celebrated. Muslims will celebrate the holiday called Eid Al-Fitr after completing 29-30 days of fasting during Ramadan. Eid Al-Fitr is also known as “Feast of Breaking the Fast”. On this day, Muslims attend an early prayer conducted in large groups which is primarily held at mosques. After prayer families will gather in gift giving and having large dinners to commemorate the ending of Ramadan.
Happy Ramadan and Kol Sana Tayeb !