Rituals Observed During Ramadan
Ramadan is a festival, celebrated by millions of practising Muslims all across the world, during the ninth month of the Muslim Calendar. This period mostly coincides with the months of June or July as per the Gregorian calendar and is considered as Islam’s holiest month. This festival is also very commonly associated by the majority, with the ritual of fasting. It is common practice for Muslim religious authorities to announce the beginning of the month of fasting after sighting the moon. That’s why Ramadan may be celebrated at different times in different parts of the world.
For most people, Ramadan is all about the Roza (fasting), Salat/ Namaz (prayers conducted five times a day) and Iftar (breaking of the fast each day). However, in reality, there are many other rituals and practices followed during this period of 29 to 30 days till the actual festival. It is believed that the first 10 days of this period are for forgiveness and atonement of sins, the next 10 days are for introspection and upliftment of the soul and the last 9-10 days are for final liberation and absolvement of sins. Muslims start observing the ritual of fast during Ramadan, once they are 12 years old.
Here, we attempt to shed light on a few more rituals and practices observed by faithful Muslims, besides the commonly known ones. It is also necessary to know that while some of these rituals are compulsory (farz), there are others which are only a prescribed or recommended way (sunnat )of observing practices.
Sehri/ Suhoor :
During Ramzan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Instead of eating three regular meals a day, a fasting Muslim has just two main meals : a pre-fast meal called Sehri/Suhoor which needs to be nourishing and substantial in order to last out the whole day and a meal that breaks the fast and is had just after sunset Mosques around the world announce the time for the pre-fast meal, which is around two hours before dawn and the morning prayer, with the help of a siren.
Sawm/ Roza :
Another siren is sounded at dawn so that Muslims observing the fast can pray before starting the Roza. This is called the Al-Fajr prayer. Muslims are encouraged to read parts of the Quran before Roza, in order to come closer to God and prepare their mind and body for the day ahead. Roza is not about just keeping away from food and water. One has to also abstain from all vices and desires, including sex. The idea is to cleanse the body, mind and soul.
Iftar is the meal that ends or breaks the fast and is usually just after sunset or the Al Maghreb prayers. This is normally the larger meal of the day and can be observed with family or the community. Many Muslims believe in breaking the fast, first with water and dates, then fruits, followed with rich snacky items like kebabs, cutlets and other meat dishes. However, there is no compulsion in the manner that one needs to break the fast. During this period, many Iftar parties are held by individuals as well as the community and members from other communities are invited to join in as well. This is encouraged to promote togetherness and forgiveness amongst community members and friends.
These are special evening prayers conducted only during the period of Ramadan and are normally prayed as a family or with the congregation, after the Isha prayer. Extensive portions of the Quran are read and the prayers may vary in length. While Taraweeh is not a compulsory custom, it is highly recommended by Prophet Mohammad.
Though Tahajjud is not a custom observed during Ramadan only, many Muslims make it a point to go for these prayers during Ramadan, after the Isha prayer, specially after midnight. It is believed that praying together in this manner, late into the night, only increases the positive energy in the environment.
E’tikaaf is a term used for going into seclusion. This is again not mandatory, but if an individual has the time and inclination, they could practise E’tikaaf, which involves staying in the mosque for 10 days or the last few days of the month. During this period people recite the Quran and Hadiths and offer salat.
One of the most important duties of a Muslim is to give alms to the poor in the form of a religious obligatory tax. This is not mandatory for Muslims who earn meager amounts or are below the poverty line but is recommended for the others who can afford to, in order to earn blessings and goodwill. It is believed that zakaat given during the Ramadan period will earn special merit and grace. While it is a private and voluntary deed, a few countries like Malaysia and Saudi Arabia have made it mandatory.
This is a donation made by Muslims, usually towards the end of the Ramadan period. People who can afford it, are encouraged to donate 2.5 kg of any grain or an equivalent amount to the poor during Ramadan.
To summarize, a number of rituals are observed by Muslims during the Ramadan period, in various parts of the world, whether fasting, charity, recital of the Quran or prayers. But all these are carried out with the sole intention of getting closer to Allah and serving him, in order to achieve fulfillment through religion.
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