Guest column by Maimoona Harrington
Ramadan 2017 began on May 27th and ends on June 25th. Muslims all over the world prepare in their own ways to welcome the holy month of Ramadan: the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and the third pillar of Islam.
Depending on the “sight of moon”, Ramadan can be 29 or 30 days long. It is also known and written as Ramazan and Ramadhan. In this month Muslims observe fasting, which is called ‘Sawm’ in Arabic.
Ramadan is important to Muslims not only because of spiritual cleansing through fasting, but because the Muslim’s Holy Scripture called “Quran” was also revealed in this month.
Besides five obligatory daily prayers, Ramadan has optional prayers that are offered after the last prayer of the day and is called “Tarahweeha.”
Ramadan rituals are divided into three sections. The first ten days of Ramadan are called “days of mercy”, the second ten days are called “days of forgiveness” and the last ten days are called “days of seeking refuge.”
According to Muslim faith, a gate in heaven is called ‘Al-Rayyan. It is only for those who observe fasting in the month of Ramadan. They will enter through this gate on the judgment day.
Fasting rituals include the keeping and breaking of the fast. Fasting starts at dawn and this time is called “Sahoor’ (time to eat) and ends at sunset called “Iftar” (time to break fast). The Sunnah says that the Prophet’s way of life is to break one’s fast by eating dates.
Fasting is obligatory, however there are some relaxations and exemptions. Those who are old, sick, travelers, nursing women, children and people with medical conditions are exempted from fasting. However, these exempted people, such as travelers and nursing women, have to make up their fasts later on.
Preparing food is a main part of the welcoming of Ramadan. This month special treats are brought to the table throughout the Muslim world as a reward for one’s sacrifice after a long day of no eating and drinking for the sake of Allah (Arabic for God).
Besides fasting and praying, Muslims also focus more on doing good deeds like charity, helping the needy, avoiding fights, avoiding use of foul language, forgiving others, being polite, and seeking refuge, forgiveness, and mercy from Allah.
The ultimate lesson of fasting is that it makes you more appreciative of your blessings bestowed to you by Allah. You not only abstain from food but also refrain from bad deeds. You learn how to control your physical and sexual desires. And one does this, not for anyone but for the sake of his Almighty Creator, Allah!
The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. On this day, children get dressed and get gifts or money called “Eidi.” Once again the Muslim households are decorated and full with the best of cultural and traditional food and families.