According to the Muslim faith, it was during Ramadan, the Ninth month of the Muslim calendar that the Holy Quran, the Sacred Book, “was sent down from heaven, guidance unto men, a declaration of direction and a means of Salvation.”
This is also the time of the year when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives.
In the Arab world, where this writer lived and worked for more than two decades, the governments, philanthropists, welfare organisations and community groups offer alms.
The Red Crescent Society (called The International Red Cross is so called in these areas) offers rice, wheat, vegetables and fruits and other essentials to the needy.
Days to Fast
“Fasting is one way of realising the true state of hunger and the Holy Month is devoted understanding the sufferings of some sections of the society. Abstinence from pleasures of life (all entertainment and night club activities are suspended during the Month, even after dusk) including sex with spouses helps Muslims to concentrate on the teachings of Islam,” a religious leader said.
At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the Iftar.
Iftar for families and friends
In the evening following the Iftar, it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning. It is also customary for commercial and industrial undertakings in the Arab world to host special dinners after Iftar for staff and clients, at least once during the Holy Month.
Pregnant women, children, those in poor health and suffering from certain types of ailments including diabetes are exempt from fasting, in addition to Muslims travelling overseas. But many travellers do observe the fasting hours, irrespective of their schedules.
Teachings of the Holy Quran
According to the Holy Quran: “One may eat and drink at any time during the night ‘until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night.”
The Muslim Faith also states that the good accruing from fasting can be nullified by the following: telling a lie, slander, denouncing someone in his or her absence, a false oath and greed or covetousness. While these are considered offensive at all times, the offense is believed to be multifold during Ramadan.
Muslims also spend several hours praying and studying the Holy Quran.
Many Mosques conduct special classes for both Muslims and non-Muslims keen on learning the teachings of the Holy Book. In addition to the five daily prayers, a special prayer is recited during Ramadan. Called, ‘Taraweeh,’ this night prayer is usually longer.
Steadfast Muslims spend the entire night in prayer in Mosques.
Muslims offering Taraweeh in the United States.
Picture Courtesy: Mohd Samsul Mohd Said/Getty Images