It’s that month of the year again. And it’s nearing its end. It is that period of the year when more than a billion Muslims around the world observe a fast from dawn to dusk and abstain themselves from drinking, eating, smoking, sex and even gossiping and cursing. This holy month of fasting, known as Ramadan in Arabic and as Ramzan (Persian name) in India, is believed to be the “month of blessing”. It is marked by prayer, fasting and charity and focuses on self-control, self-sacrifice and utmost devotion to Allah.
Here are 5 facts that everyone should know about the holy month of Ramadan and why it is believed to be the most sacred month of the year for the Muslims.
- Ramadan is the Ninth Month of the Islamic Calendar
Ramadan or Ramzan or Ramadhan is celebrated as the month when the first verses of the Quran were said to be revealed to Prophet Muhammad in 601 CE. Ramadan is believed to be the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Interestingly, the Islamic Calendar is different from the Gregorian calendar followed in the West, which has 365 days. The Islamic Calendar is a lunar calendar, according to which a year has 354 days and each month begins with the sighting of the new crescent moon. Because the lunar calendar is shorter, each date on it falls about 11 days earlier than the solar calendar.
Now you know why, Dabangg released in ‘September’, 2010 and Bajrangi Bhaijaan is releasing this July, though both are Eid-releases. Salman Khan sure knows how to dance to the tune of le le le le lele lele re, be it to take a selfie or a good box office collection.
- Purpose of Ramadan
As Ramzan is believed to be the most divine month of the Islamic Calendar, Muslims are expected to devote themselves completely to Allah. During this holy month of fasting, observers are expected to abstain from food, drink, sex, smoking and other pleasures from dawn to dusk. Even gossiping and cursing is considered to be haraam during this period. By doing so, it is intended to focus the mind on prayer, spirituality and charity and to purify the body and mind. While they are fasting, they realize the sufferings of the poor and the needy and thus a bond of kinship is established with fellow beings.
During Ramadan in the Muslim world, most restaurants are closed during the daylight hours. Families get up early for Sehri, a meal eaten before the sun rises. After the sun sets, the fast is broken with a meal known as iftar. Iftar usually begins with dates and sweet drinks that provide a quick energy boost.
- Few are abstained from Fast
It is undeniable that this practice of keeping the fast for 30 straight days is not a duck soup. It requires the amalgamation of both physical and mental strength to go without food and water for 16 hours. Therefore, the ones who lack any of the two are abstained from fasting during Ramadan. They include pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, mentally and physically ill people and children below the age of puberty. Also if a Muslim woman who is menstruating observes a fast, her fast is believed to be invalid and she must make up for the days she misses. And that is why we see few Muslim girls/women fasting even after Eid.
- The Five Pillars of Islam
Almost all religions lay a set of rules and certain practices that their followers are expected to follow. Be it the 8-fold Path laid by Lord Buddha or the 10 Commandments in Christianity. Similarly, the ‘Five Pillars of Islam’ are practices that every Muslim must follow:
- Shahadah: It is the belief that there is only one true God. The declaration goes as follows: “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet and servant.”
- Salat: Praying Five times daily facing the direction of Mecca. Muslims must practice vazu (ablution) before offering the namaz (prayer).
- Zakat: Giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy.
- Sawm: Fasting and self-control during Ramadan.
- Hajj: The pilgrimage to Mecca that each Muslim must make at least once in his/her lifetime.
- Eid al-Fitr is a three-day Extravaganza
Finally after 30 days of fasting and exhibiting utmost dedication to Allah, Muslims celebrate the breaking of their fast with Eid al-Fitr.
Eid al-Fitr which means Festival of the Breaking of Fast, also called the Sugar Feast marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, Shawwal. In the morning, Muslims gather in mosques to offer the Eid prayers and then they embrace each other, wishing “Eid Mubarak”. Later in the day, they visit family and friends, exchange gifts and celebrate this festival of “meethi eid” by having huge meals and varied delicacies. The ones who are rich enough, make donations known as “sadaqah al-fitr” (charity of fast-breaking) to the less privileged. These activities traditionally continue for three days and in most Muslim nations, this entire three-day period is an official holiday.
As this year’s month of fasting comes to a close, it’s important that we acknowledge the devotion of all of the Muslims, who’ve observed a fast so long, in service of Allah. As the weekend would see the celebration of Eid all over the world, let’s all get in this together and prepare to feast upon the “Eid ki Sewaiyaan”.
Happy Ramzan! And Eid Mubarak, in advance.