Ramadan (in Arabic: رمضان, Ramadhan) – or Ram’zan in several countries – is the ninth month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, established in the year 638. It is considered the most venerated, blessed and spiritually-beneficial month of the Islamic year. Prayers, fasting, charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month.
According to the fuqaha – Islamic jurists and legislators – in 2006 the month of Ramadan (1427 AH) began on September 23 (Middle East, East Africa, North Africa and West Africa) and September 24 elsewhere (including Turkey, North America, Southeast Asia, and the rest of the Middle East). In Pakistan, excluding some parts of NWFP Province, it was September 25. In NWFP it was September 25. It will last through October 22 or October 23.
Practices during Ramadan
There are some variations regarding the time in which Ramadan’s fasting takes place for different Muslims around the world. Since the festival is linked to the lunar calendar and the new moon is not in the same state at the same time globally, it would depend on which lunar sighting that individual recognises.
Fasting – The most prominent event of this month is the fasting practiced by all observant Muslims. The fasting during Ramadan has been so predominant in defining the month that some have been led to believe the name of this month, Ramadan, is the name of Islamic fasting, when in reality the Arabic term for fasting is sawm. Eating, drinking, […] and smoking are not allowed between dawn (fajr), and sunset (maghrib). During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam as well as refraining from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backstabbing and gossip. They are encouraged to read the Qur’an. Sexual intercourse during fasting in the day is not allowed but is permissible after the fast (when referring to sexual intercourse, it is intended to mean with one’s spouse alone, as all pre- and extra-marital relations are strictly forbidden in Islam). Obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God.
Iftar – Ramadan Dinner. Fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would be excessively problematic. Children before the onset of puberty are not required to fast. However, if puberty is later than is normally expected, fasting becomes obligatory for males and females after a certain age (not later than 15 years of age). According to the Qur’an, if fasting would be dangerous to someone’s health, such as a person with an illness or medical condition (this can include the elderly), that person is excused. According to hadith, observing the Ramadan fast is not allowed during menstruation period for women, though they are obligated to make up for this afterwards. Other individuals for whom it is usually considered acceptable not to fast are those in battle and travelers who intend to spend fewer than ten days away from home. If one’s condition preventing fasting is only temporary, one is required to make up for the days missed after the month of Ramadan is over and before the next Ramadan arrives. If one’s condition is permanent or present for an extended period, one may make up for the fast by feeding a needy person for every day missed.
If one who does not fit into one of the exempt categories breaks the fast out of forgetfulness, the fast is still valid. If, however, one intentionally breaks the fast, that individual must continue fasting for the remainder of the day in addition to a “penalty” (kaffara) which can be in one of two forms: fasting for 60 consecutive days, or feeding 60 people in need. If one breaks the fast through consensual sexual intercourse, one must make up for the day lost while also choosing one of the above penalties.
Laylat al-Qadr – Muslims believe that Laylat al-Qadr is the holy night on which the first verse of Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. The exact date of Laylat al-Qadr is unknown (the Night of Fate), but it is known to have occurred in one of the last ten nights of Ramadan; usually thought to be on one of the odd-numbered dates between 21st and 29th, with the 23rd being the most likely. Muslims believe God instructs one to seek-out this blessed night by virtue from the odd nights of the last ten nights of this month. It is said that when one seeks the Laylat al-Qadr, his/her sins will be erased, and it will be as if he/she has just been reborn. According to the Qur’an God says that spending this one night in worship is better than worshipping for 1000 months. Many hadiths also affirm the great value of praying during Laylat al-Qadr.
Suhoor – Most practising Muslims, especially children and the elderly, have a light meal or snack before dawn. This light meal is called Suhoor, Sohoor, Sehri or Sahur, and is considered an act of Sunnah. This tradition is practised by Muslims worldwide. Cafes and restaurants, in Muslim countries, stay open till early morning hours in Ramadan to serve food and drink for Suhoor.
Eid ul-Fitr – (Arabic: عيد الفطر)
This Islamic holiday marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the beginning of the following month. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fasts. On the day of the Eid, congregational prayers are held in mosques or Islamic community centers, and before the prayer begins, Muslims must give a certain amount for charity (provided they are financially capable) known as Zakatul Fitr. The prayer is two rakaahs only, and it is an optional prayer as opposed to the compulsory 5 daily prayers. Following the prayers, people congratulate and embrace one another, eating special foods and sweets at a mosque, community centre, or at people’s houses with festive moods and atmospheres. Gifts are exchanged, especially given to children, and Muslims dress in their best clothing on this day.
Eid ul-Fitr in the Philippines is on 24 October, Tuesday, and is declared by the President as a regular holiday. yehey! no work! (i hope)