Ramadan – The Holy Month for Muslims
Published on: May 06, 2020
Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims around the world. Sadef explains how Ramadan is celebrated and it reminds us all to help each other to live in peace and harmony.
By Sadef Chhotani
For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is the holiest month. Ramadan marks the month, in the Muslim lunar calendar, that the Quran was revealed by Allah to the Holy Prophet Mohammed, to guide Muslims on life, and rights and wrongs.
It is the month in which we fast and dedicate most of our time to prayer and worship. It is a time of spiritual reflection where worship and devotion are heightened by abstaining from sinful acts, violence, ill-spoken language, and behavior.
This month is one of my favorites as it brings friends and families closer. We eat, fast, and pray together.
So what do Muslims do in Ramadan and how do they celebrate it?
To many non-Muslims it’s puzzling. Why do we have to stay hungry and thirsty throughout the day? Some even think that all Muslims do is stay home or in mosques and pray.
In fact, Ramadan has an amazing glamour to it. In Muslim countries, it is like a grand festival that goes on for a month. People not only engage in prayers and fast but have parties and big gatherings and organize souks and buffets. Malls and restaurants are open all through the night and people love to socialize with friends and families.
Being raised in a Muslim country such as Pakistan, I used to look forward to this month and the exciting chaos that it brings. Work and school hours are shortened, and people tolerate others much more and become understanding of one another.
Fasting, known as ‘Fard,’ is compulsory for all Muslims, as it is amongst the five pillars of Islam. Exemptions are allowed for women who are menstruating, pregnant, or breastfeeding, people who are traveling, people with severe illness or medical conditions, or are of old age.
How do Muslims prepare for the fast? During fasting, Muslims generally stop eating before dawn and break it at sunset. Every country and culture has its own way of observing the fast.
To start the fast, a special pre-fast meal ‘Sahoor’ is prepared. Yes, it’s not a jolly moment to wake up in the middle of the night to have a meal, but we should remember we are dedicating ourselves in supplication to Allah and that He is more important to us than our sleep.
Sahoor is eaten like a breakfast, where one eats enough to keep themself full through the day. It usually comprises of eggs, roti, bread, yogurt, cereal, and other simple stuff, along with an overdose of water. When it’s almost time for the call to prayer, known as ‘Adhaan’ of ‘Fajr,’ we stop eating and perform a prayer ‘Salaah.’
At sunset comes the main meal of the day, ‘Iftaar,’ when we break our fast with the ‘Adhaan’ of ‘Magrib.’ It’s a cheerful time where the family sits together and special meals are served. Dates are served to break the fast.
I remember my mom and aunts preparing lots of elaborate things like salads, fried appetizers, rice dishes like biryani and pilaf with all sorts of meat, along with rich desserts and juices, teas and much more. Many now have Iftaar parties at home or outside, and friends and families gather to eat at restaurants as well, or even send platters of food to neighbors.
As a good Muslim, we cannot forget the less fortunate at this time. Many communities, organizations, and groups of friends and family members provide food and drinks to those who are fasting and cannot afford proper meals. Large buffets are organized and this counts as charity, which is a must for this month.
Every Muslim must perform charity this month; it is again amongst the five pillars of Islam. ‘Zakat,’ as it is called, is a minimum of 2.5% of one’s total savings. You can give more if you want. People donate food and clothes to the less fortunate or give money to shelter homes and orphanages. Zakat can also be given to a relative or a neighbor whose financial situation is rough.
Islam focuses a lot on personal hygiene and the cleanliness of one’s surroundings. We follow a certain way of washing hands, face, neck, and feet, along with cleaning of ears, nose, and front part of the hair. Clothes should be clean as well.
Daily prayers, ‘Salaah’ or ‘Namaz’, are performed five times a day. During this month it’s given extra attention, and many people also offer the special ‘Taraweeh’ prayer.
Muslims also recite the Quran more often than usual during Ramadan. Many aim to recite the entire Quran in this month, and those who do complete it love to distribute something sweet among family or friends as a gesture of inner happiness.
Many Muslims travel to Mecca and Medina for the holy pilgrimage known as ‘Umrah.’ Some even stay there for the month and celebrate the festival of Eid there as well.
The last 10 nights of Ramadan are amongst the most pious ones. ‘Layla-tul-Qadr,’ as they are usually known, are the odd-numbered nights of Ramadan. Many devote themselves to prayers and reciting the Quran, as it is believed that Allah answers prayers made in these nights.
Changes in culture
Culture also plays an important role in how Ramadan is celebrated in Muslim countries. Celebrations have drastically changed in the last 20-30 years. Restaurants and malls and other places for socialization and entertainment are now open throughout the night for people to relax, unwind, and enjoy themselves, along with carrying on their religious tasks for the day. People now eat outside in groups or host Sahoor and Iftaar parties over weekends, shop or socialize with families and friends.
Ramadan reminds us Muslims that we can live a simple life as we try to become selfless and please Allah. Ramadan tells us that if we can live in peace and harmony while caring for others for a month, then we can and should do it throughout the year.
At the end of our lives, we will leave all behind and we will only take our good deeds and actions with us. So let’s aim to do some good, even if we cannot change it completely.
Not only will it make us better humans but it will also make this world a more beautiful, peaceful place.
Photos courtesy of the author.
About the Author
Sadef is from Pakistan, is married to a Thai-Paki and has been living in Bangkok for the past 8 years, along with their 6-year-old little diva. She previously worked in the fashion industry as a women’s apparel designer and fashion merchandiser. Her passion for reading and writing since childhood has pulled her to BAMBI News. An artist at heart, she loves to paint in her spare time. She enjoys traveling, weekly visits to Sephora and is a big foodie.
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