Ramadan - the ninth month of the Islamic calendar - is a special month of the year for Muslims. This year, Ramadan commences in the beginning of August and will end more or less at the end of August, depending upon the sighting of the crescent of the new moon. Ramadan is a month of fasting from dawn to dusk, a time for additional prayers, charity, caring and sharing. Muslims regard it as an ideal time for spiritual rejuvenation. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on inner, spiritual development and spend less time on the mundane and material aspects of life. It is a time of worship and contemplation.
During the fast of Ramadan, strict restrictions are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. When fasting, no eating or drinking is allowed during the daylight hours. At the end of the day, at sunset, the fast is broken with a meal, called iftar, followed by the evening prayer. The fast is resumed before dawn of the next morning.
Benefits of fasting
Fasting for thirty days is the most important deed of Ramadan, and has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of developing will power and internal discipline. This is useful to withstand temptations, peer-pressure and other undesirable influences. The will power developed through fasting helps to resist the ever-menacing scourge of drugs, substance-abuse and anti-social behaviour. In addition, fasting helps one to feel compassion for those who are less fortunate and underprivileged, since each day a greater empathy with the poor is felt as a result of experiencing hunger and thirst first hand.
It also helps to enhance a higher level of God-consciousness and heightened spirituality. It offers a time for Muslims to develop a greater sense of humility, compassion and community bonding. A greater sense of generosity and forgiveness is also characteristic of this time. Huge amounts are contributed in charity in this month in a bid to eradicate poverty and alleviate the suffering of the poor.
As a secondary goal, fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of bad eating habits and overindulgence. It provides an excellent detox program for the preceding eleven months of indulgence.
The Quran and nightly prayers
The Month of Ramadan is the month of revelation of the Holy Quran. The Quran states: "Ramadan is the month when the Qur’an was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto mankind". During Ramadan, it is common for Muslims to spend longer hours at a local Mosque, reciting and studying the Quran. In addition to the five daily prayers, during Ramadan, a special additional prayer called the Taraweeh prayer (Night Prayer) is conducted. This prayer is fairly long as the entire Quran is recited in this prayer, with approximately 1 part of the 30 parts of the Qur’an being recited in this prayer, so that the entire scripture is recited in the course of the month. In the last ten nights of this month, Muslims search for a special night called Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power).
End of Ramadan
The month of fasting finally concludes with the festival of breaking of the fast, called Eid. The Day of Eid is a day of joy and thanksgiving. Dressed in their best of clothing and applying perfume, Muslims head early in the morning for a huge congregational prayer in an open field. After the prayer, Muslims greet each other with the greeting of “Eid Mubarak” which means Happy Eid! The Eid prayer is followed by a compulsory charity called Fitrah that has to be gifted to the poor by the wealthy so that all may enjoy on the Day of Eid. The rest of the day is spent socialising, enjoying family meals together, visiting relatives, friends, the ill and the less fortunate. Gifts are shared and as a token of love, children are given a special gift called Eidi. We take this opportunity to wish all Muslims a wonderful Ramadan and a happy Eid!
by: Mufti Zubair Bayat - Ameer of Darul Ihsan Centre