The Holy Month of Ramadan

The Holy Month of Ramadan is received with great religious fervor in the Islamic world.  Religious and social traditions during Ramadan have remained unchanged, linking Muslims of today with  their ancestors.

The dates of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Hijra, vary due to the lunar calendar, failing approximately 11 days earlier each year.  The first sighting of the crescent moon announces the beginning of the fast.

When the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) first left Mecca for Medina, he fasted for three days.  Subsequently a revelation from God established the obligation to fast a certain number of days, and thus this determined the month of Ramadan.  "O ye who believe1 Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint." "Ramadan is the month of Ramadan should spend it fasting..."  (Chapter 2, Verse 183 and 185).

The fasting requires total abstinence from food, drink and tobacco, and is one of the five pillars of Islam.  Every Muslim must fast from dawn to dusk.  Exemption are made for certain people, for example the sick, those on long journeys and nursing and pregnant women, w ho shall fast the number of days missed at a later date.   The elderly and children below the age of puberty are exempt,   although many families encourage their children at the age of seven or eight the to fast for a few hours each day to train them in the discipline.

Ramadan is not only a month of "moral abstinence," but it also has the social virtue of creating new bonds of understanding between classes of people.  The fast practiced by the rich and the poor alike reminds the more fortunate of the pangs of hunger that the poor suffer.  Fasting charity, patience and compassion.

Islam stresses equality; both the poor and the rich, men and women are equal as devotees in the sight of God.  God has chosen the month of Ramadan to be the opportunity for Muslims to seek forgiveness for their past sins.  The prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) said that "... whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan with sincere faith and hoping only reward from God Almighty will have his past sins forgiven."

The tenth day of Ramadan commemorates the death of the Prophet Mohammed's (Peace Be Upon Him) first wife, Khadijah; the seventeenth day marks the decisive victory of the Muslims over the unbelievers at Badr in AH2 (Al-Hijra Calendar, or AD 424); and the nineteenth is the day of the prophet Mohammed's (Peace Be Upon Him) conquest of Mecca in AH 8.

On one of the last ten days of Ramadan (on an odd numbered day) is Lailat Al-Qadr, the "Night of Power."  At this time the prayers of the sincere Muslims are certain to be answered.  Lailat Al-Qadr, the very heart of Islam, is a very blessed night when the angels descend and, "Peace it is, till the rising of the dawn."  (Sura XCVII) According to tradition, the Prophet Mohammed used to spend the last ten days of the month in the m mosque at Medina.  The Quran, the final revelation of God, was revealed on Lailat-Al-Qader.  "O people, a blessed month is drawing near with one night better than 1,000 months."

During Ramadan, apart from obligatory prayers Muslims are encouraged to do voluntary prayers, to recite and understand the entire Quran, to do charity and, if able, to follow the example of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him), and retire to the mosque for spiritual contemplation during the last ten days of the month.

Each night during Ramadan special prayer services are held at each local mosque in which one-thirtieth portion of the Quran is read, completing the entire book by the end of Ramadan.  Pepode stay awake all night with prayers, especially the Taraweeh prayers.  Women go to the mosque for night prayers; there are also religious lectures in the mosques after Ashr (afternoon prayer).

At sundown, the prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) broke the fast with dates and water.  The fast can be broken with many food that is not prohibited by Islamic law, but a simple snack of dates with either yogurt  and soup are usually consumed.

Following this, the sunset prayer (Maghrab) is performed before the After meal. This is a full meal with soup, usually a main dish such as "Tashiriba" (containing bread, chicken and vegetables), fluids such as water,'laban', or an apricot-type drink.

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