Saturday, October 06, 2007

The essence of Ramzan


Ramzan and Fasting

Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic (Lunar) calendar. ‘Roza’ (Fasting) is one of the 5 pillars of Islam (1). During this month Muslims around the world observe fast for the whole month. Fasting during the day means abstenance from food, water and sex. Apart from this, there are several do's and dont's which validate/ invalidate a fast. Fasting begins before dawn (Fajr) and continues till the break of dawn (Maghrib)

Muslims are ordained to observe fast for 29 or 30 days (depending on the sighting of the moon). Fasting is compulsory for every Muslim. However women in their menstrual periods are free from this obligation.

Essentials of Keeping a Fast (Roza)

1. Sehri

The fasting period starts from an hour before daybreak till after sunset.It starts with a pre-fast meal called 'suhoor' or 'sehri', without which a fast cannot be kept. Getting up during pre-dawn hours and having something (even water, if nothing else) is important in order to observe 'roza'. This is followed by an intention (Niyat) to fast for the day. The intention should be from the heart or could be spoken out aloud. In predominantly Muslim areas, some messengers get up early and move about with mikes or Dufli (a kind of drum) waking up fellow Muslims asking them to get up for 'Sehri'.

2. Iftar

Iftar means breaking the fast with a post dawn meal. Many Muslims break the fast with 'khajoor' (dates) and water before having a proper meal later.

Importance of Ramzan

It was during this month that the Holy Quran, the word of Allah to mankind, was revealed through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), on the night of ‘Lailatul Qadr’.

During the month, Muslims try to read as much of the Qur'an as they can. Some spend part of their day listening to the recitation of the Qur'an. Special night prayers (Taraveeh) are offered in a congregation which include Quranic recitation.

Other Important Acts to be performed during Ramzan

1. Zakat

Ramzan is incomplete without charity. 'Zakat' or wealth tax is the fifth pillar of Islam. Every Muslim whose finances are above a certain specified minimum (7.5 tolas gold or equivalent savings) must pay 2.5 percent of it annually to a deserving fellow being.

2. Fitra

Every Muslim has to pay 'fitra' or a small amount of charity for himself, his wife and children before Eid. This 'fitra' should be around 2.5 kg of wheat or the money equivalent. This ensures that even the poor can join in the joy of Eid by buying clothes and preparing food and sweets.

Several poor families pour in Muslim dominant areas or near mosques to collect zakat or fitra. Apart from that Islamic educational and charity institutions also collect them for their charitable activities.

Lailat-ul- Qadr (Big/ Special Night)

The night on which the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad, known as the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr), is generally taken to be the 27th night of the month, although the exact day it falls on is not properly known. It is believed to be in the last ten days on one of the odd (21st/23rd/25th/27th) nights of Ramzan. Those who wish to seek the blessings of the night spend the entire last ten nights in prayers. Some believe that it is the 27th night and pray for that entire night.

End of Ramzan

The month ends with the sighting of the moon for the next month - 'Shawwal' and is followed by a feast called the 'Eid Ul Fitr' (Ramzan Eid). It is celebrated on the 1st day of Shawwal and marks the end of the fasting month.

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Notes:

1 The five pillars of Islam are : Shahadah (profession of faith), Salah /Namaz (ritual prayer), Zakat (alms tax), Sawm/ Roza (fasting during Ramzan), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca

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