Ramadan/Ramzan Falling on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, the month of Ramadan is a period of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community to Muslims worldwide. This time is a commemoration to the first revelation of the Quran. This annual practice is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
It is believed that in 610 AD, the Islamic prophet Muhammad, was visited by the archangel Jibril in a cave located on a mountain near Mecca. Jibril revealed to Muhammed the beginnings of what we now know to be the Quran.
The beginning, known as Hilal, occurs a day after the astronomical new moon. Laylat al-Qadr is known to be the ‘night of power’. The first revelation of the Quran was sent to Muhammed on this night, thus making it the holiest night of the year. The holiday, Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. This is declared by the next crescent new moon. It is believed that during this month, the gates to heaven are open and the gates of hell are closed.
Muslims are instructed to fast during this month’s sunlight hours. Along with abstaining from eating and drinking, the community is also expected to refrain from sinful thought, speech and behavior. Giving way to spiritual reflection, improvement, increased devotion and worship. Ramadan teaches the practice of better self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for the lesser fortunate.
The pre-fast meal is called the suhoor, observed before dawn each day. The fast-breaking meal is known as iftar. Dates are typically used to break the fast, as according to tradition, Muhammed broke his fast with three dates. Social gatherings are a frequent affair at iftar. Traditional dishes and desserts only made during Ramadan are consumed. The main dishes include stewed lamb, roast chicken, and lamb kebabs. A savory dessert, like luqaimat, concludes the meal. Iftar has evolved to be a banquet festival overtime. The largest mosque in Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, feeds up to 30,000 people each night.
All healthy people are expected to fast. There is an exception to children, the elderly and pregnant, post-natal, breastfeeding or menstruating women.
Charity is also very important for this month. A fixed percentage of a person’s savings is to be given to the poor. In Islam, good deeds are more handsomely rewarded during the month of Ramadan than any other. Many use this time to donate a larger portion to maximize the reward that awaits them at Last Judgement.
Ramadan Around the World
Indonesia: The Islamic population conducts different rituals to ‘cleanse’ themselves the day before Ramadan.
Lebanon: Cannons are fired each day to signal the end of the day’s fast and the beginning of iftar. Many Middle East countries do this.
United Arab Emirates: Children roam their neighborhoods dressed in bright clothing, collecting sweets and singing traditional local songs. This is similar to the western custom of trick-or-treating.
Pakistan: After the final iftar, women and girls flock to the local bazaars to buy colorful bangles and to paint their hands and feet with henna designs.
Morocco: A town crier, wearing the traditional attire of a gandora, slippers and a hat, marks the start of dawn with his song. The crier walks down the street while blowing a horn to wake people up for suhoor.
Turkey: More than 2000 drummers roam the streets of Turkey to wake the people for suhoor. This tradition has been going on since the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Egypt: The Egyptian people welcome Ramadan with intricate colorful lanterns that symbolize unity and joy throughout the month.