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What is The Month of Ramadan?
Ramadan brings out a special feeling of emotional excitement and religious zeal among Muslims of all ages. It is one of the holiest month for Muslims. I will just try to describe it, I know words are not enough to describe this month but I will try my level best to put a light on it. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Ramadan is expected to begin on or around August 1, 2011 and will finish on or around August 29, 2011, and will continue for 29 or 30 days. Every day during this month, Muslims around the world spend the daylight hours in a complete fast. Note that in the Muslim calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will celebrate Ramadan on the sunset of the 31st of July. Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Ramadan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. Hence the above estimated Ramadan dates for the next years show that every year Ramadan starts 11 to 12 earlier than the previous year. The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not. In this month Muslims all around the World Fasting and doing Worship of God (Allah). Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur’an, giving charity, purifying one’s behavior, and doing good deeds. Ramadan or Sawn one of the five pillars of Islam which all Muslims are expected to follow, the other four are Faith (Shahadah) Prayer (Salah), Charitable Giving (Zakah), and the Pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj).
The holy month of Ramadan month is divided into three parts (1) Rahmat, (2) Maghfirat and (3) Nijat. While Rahmat means “mercy of God, Maghfirat means “forgiveness of God” and Nijat means “salvation”. As their meaning suggest, Muslims (followers of the holy Quran), ask for Allah’s blessings to make their life meaningful. There in lies the significance of Ramadan.
Ramadhan is the month of celebration as well as the month of discipline and self-control.
What is fasting? ( ما هو الصيام؟ )
Fasting is another form of worship found universally in the world religions. Fasting is an ancient and universal practice.The Jews observe an annual fasting on the day of atonement in commemoration of the descent of Moses from Sinai after spending forty days of fasting in order to be able to receive revelation. Jesus observed fasting for forty days in the desert and commanded his followers to fast. In brief, the practice of fasting has been common in one form or the other in all human societies. Fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God’s bounties.
Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence. Observing fast, or fasting, is when a person abstains (or keeps away) from eating and drinking. Muslims fast for 30 consecutive days during the month of Ramadan during daylight hours. From sunrise to sunset. The Qur’an commands: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. [Surah Bakarah – 2:183] ( سورة البقرة — 2:183 )
Exemption From Fasting: ( الإعفاء من الصوم )
1. Children under the age of puberty and discretion;
2. The insane people who are unaccountable for their deeds. People of these two categories are exempted from the duty of fasting and no compensation or any other substitute is enjoined on them;
3. Men and women who are too old and feeble to undertake the obligation of fasting and bear its hardships. Such people are exempted from this duty, but they must offer at least one needy poor Muslim an average full meal or its value per person day.
4. Sick people whose health is likely to be severely affected by fasting. They may postpone the fast, as long as they are sick, to a later date and makeup for it, a day for a day;
5. People expecting hardship. Such people may break the fast temporarily during their travel only and make up for it in later days, a day for a day. But it is better for them, the Quran says, to keep the fast if they can without causing extraordinary hardships;
6. Expectant women and women nursing their children may also break the fast, if its observance is likely to endanger their own health or that of their infants. But they must make up for the fast at a delayed time, a day for a day;
7. Women in periods of menstruation (of a maximum of ten days). They must postpone the fast till recovery and then make up for it, a day for day.
Iftar ( افطار )
The time when the fast ends is known as ‘Iftar’. Iftar is an Arabic term meaning breaking the fast immediately after the sunset. Iftar is a light snack consisting of dates or desserts, along with liquids, such as water, juice or milk. Iftar, refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the month of Ramadan. Iftar is one of the religious observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together.
To eat a few dates or start breaking the fast by plain water right after sunset, saying this prayer ” O God! for Your sake have we fasted and now we break the fast with the food You have given us)”
Lailatul Qadr:( ليلة القدر )
The 27th day Ramadan month is said to be the Lailatul Qadr.
The last ten days of Ramadan are a time of special spiritual power as everyone tries to come closer to God through devotions and good deeds. The night on which the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet, known as the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr), is generally taken to be the 27th night of the month. The Qur’an states that this night is better than a thousand months. Therefore many Muslims spend the entire night in prayer.
Eid ul-Fitr (عيد الفطر )
Eid ul-Fitr is a holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
After 30 days of fasting, the end of the month of Ramadan is observed with a day of celebration, called Eid-ul-Fitr.
Eid means ‘festival’ or ‘celebration’ in Arabic and the festival following Ramadan is known as ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’.
On this day a large feast is celebrated on the breaking of the fast of Ramadan, and is held on the first day of Shawwal, right after the month of Ramadan. Also called “Eid,” on this day many elaborate dishes are served at banquet-like gatherings. Additionally, houses are decorated and gifts are exchanged. An important part of Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations is to express warm wishes to your neighbors and invite them for a meal. An interesting idea is to celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr with poor children. The Muslims are actually advised to offer 3 kilograms of one’s daily ration or its equivalent cash to the poor on this occasion.