It is not only about fasting
A lay man will describe Ramadan as the holy month of the Muslims, during which they fast from sunrise to sunset. But it would not be wrong to decipher that there is so much more to Ramadan than just this overt and curtailed knowledge of one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Ramadan is not just about fasting, only because it is that one month during which each Muslim is opportune enough to connect with Allah on a whole new level. In the Islamic tradition, Allah promises to return every little act of kindness and generosity in this holy month by ten-times, both in this world itself and the world thereafter.
The significance of the month of Ramadan lies in its very meaning. The word Ramadan is derived from the Arabic root word of ramida or ar-ramad, which means scorching heat or dryness. The month extends for 29 to 30 days, depending on the visual sightings of the falcate moon. Muslims all over the world fast or observe a roza that commences at dawn and ends at sunset everyday during this month.
This ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar begins with the sighting of the crescent moon in the western horizon, immediately after sunset. If the moon is indeed sighted, it is a sign of the commencement of the month of Ramadan. Young children are encouraged by their parents to approach their elders and seek their blessings; greeting them with a salaam.
The fast or the roza is the basic and imperative practice observed during Ramadan. The fast commences before the rise of the sun and azan of the Fajar prayers, sehri is observed during which the rozedar eats a meal, followed by offering the Fajar namaz. His fast thus, begins.
During the day, the rozedar and even those who are not observing a fast, are expected and encouraged to read the Quran shareef and offer all the five prayers or namaz. Some Muslims even perform the recitation of the entire Quran by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, the duration of which varies between one to three weeks. It is imperative to complete the recitation of the entire Quran during the tenure. Often young boys, accompany their fathers and elders of the house to the masjid or the mosque for the same. It is a delightful sight to see young children show such a profound interest in the many practices that are observed during this pious month; a month when all sins are forgiven, a month when Allah shows infinite mercy on his beloved children.
The blessed month of Ramadan is divided into three parts or Ashra: The Days of Mercy, the Days of Forgiveness and the Days of Emancipation from the Hell-fire or dozak ki aag.
Fasting during this month, gives the privileged and wealthy class to show their benevolence and kindness to the less fortunate by act of generosity. By paying Zakat or alm to the poor, the gap between man and God is bridged. A person who steps outside his comfort zone and goes the extra mile to show compassion towards the destitute during this blessed month, is in the tradition of Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be with him, is rewarded ten folds.
In many households, grandparents bring all their grand children together and narrate stories about the days of the Badr and the significance of fasting to them. Thus, Ramadan brings families together. By means of narrating these stories, there is a constant mention of Allah and his praise. Ramadan is a celebration of Allah’s constant guidance to those who held themselves.
It is imperative to know about certain guidelines and rules that need to be followed by those who wish to fast or sawm. No rozedar can eat, drink, smoke or engage in a sexual activity. It is imperative for every Muslim who has attained puberty to fast. Women who are nursing a child, pregnant or menstruating, cannot fast. Also, those who are ill or are travelling are redeemed from fasting and can choose to postpone their fast; though the sawaab of fasting later is not equivalent to the fast kept during Ramadan.
The fast is broken immediately after sunset, when one hears the call for prayer or azaan. Usually, the mosques notify the people about the end of the day by a siren. Rozedars break the fast by eating a date, preceded by a short dua. After eating and drinking their share, the rozedars, offer the maghrib prayers, which is followed by a com plete meal. The men usually rest for a while and then leave for the mosques to offer the isha prayer or salah, followed by the Taraweeh prayer.
The festival of Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated at the end of the month, which starts with the offering of the eid ki namaz or Fitr at the Eidgah. Children are given money or eidi by the elders, sewain is cooked in every house and guests visit each other’s homes. It is a three day long festival during which Muslims all over the world celebrate not just the end of another Ramadan but the Grace and Mercy of their Lord.
Ramadan is thus, not just a month of fasting. It is a month during which Muslims are opportune to recognize Allah’s Mercy and Benevolence. One comes to realize that if it were not for God’s mercy and sustenance; one would be caught in perilous positions with no escape possible. Fasting is a humbling experience, which is an important characteristic of a righteous soul. Muslims are expected to give Zakat or alms to the poor, a means by which they seek to gain Allah’s mercy. By fasting, one learns to practice self control and self restraint. By observing a day long fast during the entire month, one’s soul comes closer to God. Fasting lifts the soul to new heights of piety. One acknowledges the power of Allah that resides over all living beings that inhabit the Earth. Fasting helps the individual to break away from the clutches of the evil and from everything that tempts the soul. The soul is in a way cleansed of its many sins and thus, takes a step closer to self righteousness. It is a means by which one learns to manage their anger, envious nature, desires for revenge and any sort of immoral thought that may distance the person from Allah’s foretold path.
With the onset of Ramadan, every house seems to be jubilant with exhilaration and festivity. It is like a festival in itself. The needs of the poor are met, the privileged gain the chance to redeem themselves of their sins and cleanse their impure souls by nourishing those who are ill-favoured by societal standards. Delicious snacks are cooked, a constant mention of Allah is made, and children gain in their knowledge about Islam especially during this month when maulvis pay a visit to homes. It seems as if every house comes alive during the sacred month. Har ghar mein ek raunak si chaa jaati hai.
Nazia Naheed Husain
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 15, Dated 05 June 2015)