THE MONTH OF BLESSINGS
Ramadan (Arabic: رَمَضَان, romanized: Ramaḍān [ra.ma.dˤaːn]; also spelled Ramazan, Ramzan, Ramadhan or Ramathan) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting (sawm), prayer, reflection and community. A commemoration of Muhammad’s first revelation, the annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. and lasts twenty-nine to thirty days, from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next.
Fasting from dawn to sunset is farz (obligatory) for all adult Muslims who are not acutely or some other reasons. The predawn meal is referred to as suhur, and the nightly feast that breaks the fast is called iftar. Although fatwas have been issued declaring that Muslims who live in regions with a midnight sun or polar night should follow the timetable of Mecca, it is common practice to follow the timetable of the closest country in which night can be distinguished from day.
The spiritual rewards (thawab) of fasting are believed to be multiplied during Ramadan. Accordingly, Muslims refrain not only from food and drink, but also tobacco products, haram relations, and sinful behavior, devoting themselves instead to salat (prayer) and study of the Quran.
Because the Hilāl, or crescent moon, typically occurs approximately one day after the new moon, Muslims can usually estimate the beginning of Ramadan; however, many prefer to confirm the opening of Ramadan by direct visual observation of the crescent.
Laylat al-Qadr (Arabic: لیلة القدر), variously rendered in English as the Night of Decree, Night of Power, Night of Value, Night of Destiny, or Night of Measures, is, in Islamic belief, the night when the Quran was first sent down from Heaven to the world and also the night when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the prophet Muhammad.According to many Muslim sources, its exact date is uncertain but it was one of the odd-numbered nights of the last ten days of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Since that time, Muslims have regarded the last ten nights of Ramadan as being especially blessed. Muslims believe that the Night of Qadr comes with blessings and mercy of God in abundance, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted, and that the annual decree is revealed to the angels who carry it out according to God’s Grace.
The holiday of Eid al-Fitr (Arabic:عيد الفطر), which marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal, the next lunar month, is declared after a crescent new moon has been sighted or after completion of thirty days of fasting if no sighting of the moon is possible. Eid celebrates of the return to a more natural disposition (fitra) of eating, drinking, and marital intimacy.
The common practice is to fast from dawn to sunset. The pre-dawn meal before the fast is called the suhur, while the meal at sunset that breaks the fast is called iftar.
Muslims devote more time to prayer and acts of charity, striving to improve their self-discipline, motivated by hadith: “When Ramadan arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up and devils are put in chains.“
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The fast (sawm) begins at dawn and ends at sunset. In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking during this time, Muslims abstain from sexual relation and sinful speech and behaviour during Ramadan fasting or month. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Muslims believe that Ramadan teaches them to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate, thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat). Muslims also believe fasting helps instill compassion for the food-insecure poor.
Exemptions to fasting include travel, menstruation, severe illness, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. However, many Muslims with medical conditions insist on fasting to satisfy their spiritual needs, although it is not recommended by hadith.
Those unable to fast are obligated to make up the missed days later.
SUHOOR & IFTAR
Each day, before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called the suhoor. After stopping a short time before dawn, Muslims begin the first prayer of the day, Fajr.
At sunset, families break the fast with the iftar, traditionally opening the meal by eating dates to commemorate Muhammad’s practice of breaking the fast with three dates. They then adjourn for Maghrib, the fourth of the five required daily prayers, after which the main meal is served.
Social gatherings, many times in buffet style, are frequent at iftar. Traditional dishes are often highlighted, including traditional desserts, particularly those made only during Ramadan. Water is usually the beverage of choice, but juice and milk are also often available, as are soft drinks and caffeinated beverages.
In the Middle East, iftar consists of water, juices, dates, salads and appetizers; one or more main dishes; and rich desserts, with dessert considered the most important aspect of the meal. Typical main dishes include lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables, and roasted chicken served with chickpea-studded rice pilaf.
Zakāt,(CHARITY) often translated as “the poor-rate”, is the fixed percentage of income a believer is required to give to the poor; the practice is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam. Muslims believe that good deeds are rewarded more handsomely during Ramadan than at any other time of the year; consequently, many Muslims donate a larger portion – or even all – of their yearly zakāt during this month
Tarawih (Arabic: تراويح) are extra nightly prayers performed during the month of Ramadan. Contrary to popular belief, they are not compulsory.
Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran, which comprises thirty juz’ (sections), over the thirty days of Ramadan. Some Muslims incorporate a recitation of one juz’ into each of the thirty tarawih sessions observed during the month.
It is good for a Muslim to read Quran with its translation.