What non-Muslims should know about Ramadan…

Comes the month of Ramadan, the city of Hyderabad turns lively and cheerful throughout the day and night. Yes, this special month when people are most active during night, turns the streets of Old Hyderabad into an overwhelmingly vivacious and spiritual destination. Colours, lights, food (read Biryani & Haleem), shopping, sweets, prayers and hugs are all shared with everyone right on these streets. Well this would be true for all Muslim localities around the world but Hyderabad has its own charm.

Over the last three years, I have been actively participating in and celebrating Ramadan. The more I explore it, the more meaning I find in its beauty, purity, simplicity and the purpose behind it. This blog is just an effort for people to see the aspect of Islam which is usually overlooked.

The Ramadan fast is one of the five pillars, basic institutions or duties of Islam:

Shahadah: Affirmation that there is no deity but God and Mohammed is his messenger.

Salat: Praying five times daily.

Zakat: Compulsory giving to charity.

Sawm: Fasting during the month of Ramadan.

Hajj: Making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in  lifetime, if possible

“Is there any reward for good other than good?” Quran 55:60

Here are some of the facts and beliefs that I found worth contemplating about the importance of holy month of Ramadan in Islam, a religion which is being followed by over 1.5 billion people on this planet. Rarely one would find such a long lasting festival with profound significance.

  1. The word “Ramadan” is derived from an Arabic word for intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of food and drink.
  2. Ramadan is the ninth month, the most holy month, of the Islamic lunar calendar and begins with the sighting of the new moon. There are approx. 354 days in a lunar calendar based on phases of moon, therefore Islamic calendar moves 11 days backward each year w.r.t. conventional Gregorian calendar. Being lunar means that within a span of every thirty years or so, the month of Ramadan falls in each of the four seasons.
  3. It is believed that the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadan. The first revelation was sent down on Laylat-al-Qadr (the night of power) which is one of the five odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan (Taaq Raat i.e. 21, 23, 25, 27, 29 night). Thus last ten days of month of Ramadan are more significant and intense.
  4. The common practice during Ramadan is fasting which begins at dawn and ends at sunset. The pre-dawn meal before the fast is called the suhur or sehri, while the meal at sunset that breaks the fast is called the iftar. Usually fast is broken with dates, water and light snacks followed by evening prayers and dinner.
  5. It becomes compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, as long as they are healthy and sane, and have no disabilities or medical conditions.
  6. Fasting means abandoning. 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. It teaches how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, empathy and solidarity for those who are less fortunate and are fasting day and night without a choice; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity (zakat).
  7. It is believed “When Ramadan arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up and devils are put in chains”. Here, I personally interpret Paradise achieved through Compassion towards others and Hell by locking of Ego which we all possess.
  8. The length of the dawn to sunset time varies in different parts of the world. Most Muslims fast 11-16 hours a day. However, in polar regions daylight may exceed over 20 hours per day in summers. This makes fasting in summers (not eating food and drinking water) very difficult. On contrary, when Ramadan falls in winters the days are shorter, weather is cold and thus fasting becomes easier.
  9. Actions that Muslims are commanded to abstain during fasting hours are eating, drinking (water),  sexual relations, negative thoughts, sinful speech and activities. Some people even avoid listening music and watching television.
  10. If for any reason the fast is broken, becomes invalid or cannot be continued, usually in case of medical illness or menstrual cycle for women, the person has to make up for it after Ramadan.
  11. The month of Ramadan is a time of devotion, spiritual reflection and self-improvement in terms of oneself, one’s behavior with others and one’s relationship with the divine. This is accomplished by reading and listening to recitations of Quran and through self-introspection.
  12. Ramadan ends when the first crescent of the new moon is sighted again, marking the start of new lunar month. Eid-al-Fitr is the Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan and is the day of feasting.

Let’s not get sidetracked by the negative images projected by media globally. Why don’t we experience for ourselves by visiting local community gatherings or knocking the door of our Muslim neighbors and becoming a part of Ramadan.

One need not become a Muslim to believe in and celebrate Ramadan, one need not perform the fasting in literal sense but one can definitely benefit by understanding and contemplating on the principles and deeper values associated with the holy month of Ramadan.

You can just start by wishing “Happy Ramadan” with a SMILE and if you want to make some honest efforts building a personal touch, commonly used greetings are “Ramadan Kareem” (which means “have a generous Ramadan”) and “Ramadan Mubarak” (which means “have a blessed Ramadan”).

Hope you found this blog interesting, informative and this would help change your perspective towards Islam and Muslim community. Because it’s important to live together in the moment and accept our differences or similarities harmoniously. 

Ramadan Mubarak!!!

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