It is that time of the year again when Muslims across the world are filled with the holy spirit of Ramadan, the ninth month of Islamic calendar, that takes place for 720 hours i.e. four weeks and two days during which the followers of Islam fast between dawn and sunset, pray for peace and guidance, give back to the community in the form of charity or zakaat or engaging in humanitarian activities such as feeding the underprivileged and introspect to enlighten their souls. Also known as Ramazan or Ramzan, the word Ramadan is derived from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, which means ‘scorching heat’ and it is one of the five pillars of Islam that include – Shahada (profession of faith), Salat (Prayer), Zakat (Almsgiving), Sawm (Fasting) and Hajj (Pilgrimage).
The date for Ramadan changes yearly because the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle hence, its starting and end date depends upon the sighting of the crescent moon. This year, Ramadan may begin in India from the evening of April 2 or 1 Ramadan 1443 AH with the first fast being observed on April 3, 2022, depending upon the sighting of the crescent moon.
Usually, the crescent of Ramadan is first sighted in Saudi Arabia and some parts of India along with some Western countries and then usually a day later in the rest of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries.
History and significance:
It is said that Ramadan is the commemoration of Prophet Muhammad’s (Praise Be Upon Him) first revelation. Muslims believe that it was during the night of Laylat al-Qadr that God revealed the verses of the Holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad for the first time. It is believed that during Ramadan, all the devils are locked up with chains in hell, no one can disturb those who are busy praying to Allah as the gates of Jannah (Paradise) are opened and the gates of Jahannum (hell) are locked up along with the devils.
‘Thawab’ is what the spiritual rewards of fasting are known as and it is believed that these rewards multiply during the period of Ramadan where Muslims stay away from food and drink, smoking, sexual activities and any sinful behaviour, and instead focus more on prayer, self-reform, charity and taqwa, which is heightened awareness of God. Suhoor, or sehri, is the predawn meal is referred to as suhur, before the call for the morning pray, Fajr, and iftar is the nightly feast that breaks the fast after the evening prayer, Maghrib.
During Ramadan, Muslims pray to Allah and observe fasts, which are called sawm or roza in India and Pakistan, as a symbol of devotion towards the Almighty. For the time period of this month, Muslims let go of worldly pleasures and extravagant behaviour and spending and observe the fast along with their friends and family.
They wake up in the early hours of the morning to eat Suhoor or Sehri, a meal which comprises of foods such as dates, fruits, milk, sweet vermicelli etc. Then till sunset they do not eat anything, observing their fast nor do they drink water or anything else during this time period.
In the evening, the rozedaar or the fasting Muslims break their fast with dates or if dates are not available, anything sweet or simply water is consumed to break the fast. This is marked by the Maghrib prayer and it is believed that even Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with dates-according to some legends, he had three dates and some water.
After this there is iftar, a meal that includes all sorts of delicacies such as kebabs, tikkas, biryani, nihari and also desserts such as sheer khurma (a milky pudding that is made with vermicelli and saffron), kheer, phirni, shahi tukda, khlaja baklava or khlaja pheni. Post this, they pray Maghrib salat.
Special evening prayers called taraweeh are held during which portions from the Quran are recited. During the end of Ramadan, intense prayers take place during the Laylatul Qadr or the Night of Power, which is believed to be the holiest night of the year.
It generally falls on the 27th day of Ramadan and is a commemoration of the night when the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhamad. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid-ul-Fitr. Shawwal is the starting of the next month, and translated it means, ‘festival of breaking of the fast.’