“It was the month of Ramadan in which the Quran was sent down as guidance for mankind with clear signs containing guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Hence, whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it” (The Quran 28).
Ramadan is celebrated by 1 billion Muslims worldwide. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship, sincerity and devotion to God.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year. It is a time of fasting, and the month in which the Quran was revealed. It was named this way because it originally fell in summer. Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word “Ramad,” which means to bake a sheep in its skin. The analogy behind this is that Muslims who fast are slowly burning away their sins. Each year Ramadan gradually rotates backwards through all seasons and months so Muslims experience fasting under all kinds of conditions.
The intention to fast is the essential requirement for the act to be valid. The intention can be made during any part of the night of Ramadan, but before Fajr, the obligatory dawn prayer. It doesn’t have to be a verbal action; it can be made within one’s heart between himself and God. Fasting is a form of worship that is hidden from people.
When the crescent of the new moon is sighted in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar that signifies the beginning of Ramadan, and this month lasts for 29 to 30 days. That will be on or near June 27. Fasting begins at the dawn of the next morning. Dawn is defined as the time when the earliest light is visible, and as the morning call to prayer, Adhan. The fasting ends and is completed for that day at sunset with the sound of the evening call to prayer.
After one has made the intention to fast, he or she participates in the pre-dawn meal of Suhur. The meal is blessed, even if only a sip of water is taken. This also is a time for Muslims to thank God for having food and drinks because as the hours go by, they will feel how it is to live without either until sunset.
Fasting (Siyam) is one of the pillars of Islam. In the month of Ramadan through the hours of fasting, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking. The main aim of fasting is to become God-conscious; it provides self-discipline. Those fasting gain an appreciation of the needs of the poor.
Every healthy Muslim adult should fast during Ramadan. Excused from fasting are children and the mentally ill.
As the day gets closer to sunset, this is time for all Muslims to think about the day. As each day of fasting goes by, a Muslim should strive to improve on the previous days with hopes that God will accept his or her fasting.
After the obligatory prayer immediately after sunset (Maghrib), the main meal is served. It is the time where family, friends and people of the community come together.
Every Muslim is required to engage in five daily prayers. During Ramadan, a special nightly prayer, the Tarwish, is added. This prayer is performed after the fifth obligatory prayer, and after the Muslim breaks his or her fast. The significance of Tarawih is to get closer to God, and listen to the recitations of the Quran to awaken the heart of the listener. Tarawih prayers are intended to change our behaviors with one another, reflect our morals and to gain a spiritual growth. That concludes the continuous cycle that a Muslim participates in, for the complete 30 days and nights of Ramadan. Within the last 10 days of this sacred month, there is The Night of Power. On this special night, the revelation of the Quran started. It was the night that the Prophet Muhammad began to convey the message of Islam to humanity.
After the 30-day sequence of fasting, praying and worshiping God, Eid Ul Fitir, the festival, arrives. It is the celebration of the completion of Ramadan. It follows the day when the new moon is sighted, signifying the end of this sacred month. This festival is marked by a special Eid prayer performed by the whole community. The three-day celebration includes Eid gifts for children, date-filled cookies (Ma3mool), Arabic coffee (Qahwa), Arabic sweets and monetary gifts. Houses are decorated and tables are covered with gifts and food for everyone.
Ahlam Mishmish of Boardman is a Youngstown State University student.