In Arabic it is Sawm, in Persian Ramazan, in Urdu Ramzan and in Indonesian it is Puasaor Bulan Puasa. Every language has a definition of Ramadan. However, the connotation remains the same. Traditionally, the first day of Ramadan is marked by observing the crescent moon with the naked eye. And it lasts for one complete moon cycle, i. e. 29 to 30 days. Of late, astronomical calculations have taken over the age-old tradition of moon sighting by the naked eye to ascertain the dates.
The occasion of Ramadan is basically the holy month of fasting observed by Muslims all across the world. It teaches self-discipline and self-control by withdrawing one from worldly things, following the teachings of Islam, and abstaining from any sinful activity.
All adult Muslims keep the fast from sunrise till sunset, i. e. during the daylight hours, except for the ones who are suffering from illness or diabetes, travelling, pregnant and breastfeeding women, or women going through the menstrual period. People on a fast can eat and drink only after sunset and before sunrise. In Islam, it is believed that fasting gives reward and observing it in the month of Ramzan increases the benefits of rewards manifold. Along with fasting, prayers are traditionally offered and the Quran is recited.
Importance and Origin of Ramadan
Ramzan is considered a sacred festival. In about 610 A.D., Muhammad, a caravan trader was travelling in the desert near Mecca. Suddenly the angel Gabriel appeared and told him that he had been chosen by Allah to receive the world. Muhammad then started speaking and writing down the words of Allah in the Quran. It is said that the Quran revelations received by Muhammad were in the lunar month of Ramadan or Ramzan.
It is the month in which the Holy Quran was sent down to the lowest heaven. It was also informed by Muhammad to his followers that during this month the doors of heaven will remain open whereas that of hell will remain closed.
As per the Islamic lunar calendar, the month of fasting begins with the sight of the first crescent of a new moon. The lunar calendar year is shorter than the solar year by 10-11 days, and therefore the holy month of Ramadan keeps migrating throughout the year. The start date of this annual festival varies each year and follows the Islamic lunar calendar.
Some Muslims follow the actual sight of the moon to start the fasting period, whereas some simply follow the calendar dates. Hence, the date of the festival keeps changing with the location by a day or so.
How is Ramadan celebrated?
This is the period of intense devotion, charity and absolution.
In Ramadan falls the Laylat al-Qadr or “Night of Power” or “the night of decree”. It is the holiest night of the year. It can be anyone night out of the odd-numbered nights during the last 10 days of the Ramadan month, i. e. the night of 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th day can be the Night of Power.
The first day of the next lunar month known as Shawwal is celebrated as Eid-ul-Fitr. It marks the end of Ramadan.
- Suhoor – meal consumed before dawn.
- Iftar – Meal consumed after sunset. Generally, dates are the first food to break the fast. It is followed by the Maghrib prayer and then the main meal.
Muslims engage in charity and prayers during the entire month. They refrain from any kind of bad speech or behaviour and also withdraw from sexual relations. Muslims put in every effort to follow the teachings of Islam to cleanse the soul.
Charity during Ramzan
Every Muslim is obligated to donate a fixed percentage of his savings to the poor as charity. This is known as Zakat. In this month, many people give away a large portion of the Zakat. Apart from this, Muslims do voluntary charity known as Sadaqah. To maximize their reward out of charity, they prefer to do Sadaqah during Ramazan.
In the month of Ramadan, Muslims perform extra prayers at night or in the evening which is known as Tarawih.
Reading the Quran is encouraged during Ramzan. Every night, voluntary prayers to recite a whole section of the Quran are held in the mosques. This is done so as to complete the Quran in one month.
Failing to fast or openly showing defiant behaviour by eating, drinking or smoking during the daytime may put one in danger of prosecution in some countries, where such a practice is regarded as a crime.
In many countries, the month of Ramadan is welcomed by lighting up lanterns and stringing up lights in public squares and city streets. Apart from its religious importance, observing fast during Ramzan leads to many health benefits such as improved alertness and brain function. It helps in lowering down the stress level because of the fall in cortisol. Weight loss, reduction of cholesterol, and body detoxification have also been observed during fasting.