Ramadan – Islamic month of fasting
Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان, Ramaḍān) is a Muslim religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, believed to be the month in which the Qur’an was revealed to Angel Gabriel, who later revealed it to the Prophet Muhammad. It is the Islamic month of fasting (sawm), in which participating Muslims do not eat or drink anything from dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach the person patience, sacrifice, and humility. Ramadan is a time to fast for the sake of God and to offer even more prayer than usual. In Ramadan Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance into the future, ask for help in refrain from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
End of Ramadan
Coming with the new moon, the festival marks the end of ‘Ramadan‘ – a month when Muslims fast throughout the day and eat only at night Prayers, feasts and family get- together are the major highlights of the celebrations. It was during this month that the holy Koran was revealed. Eid means recurring happiness or festivity. Eid is celebrated in India with much enthusiasm and fervor and Muslims from all strata of life can be seen adorned in beautiful new clothes, visiting the mosques to attend Salatul Eid (Eid prayers). Greetings of “Eid-Mubarak” or “a blessed Eid” are exchanged.
A very important aspect of eid is the charity, which all the Muslims are expected to extend to the needy. Earlier, this was in the form of gifts in kind but now cash is given to the needy. The first Eid of the year is known as “Eid Al Fitr“. Al Fitr literally means breaking of fast. Thus Eid Al Fitr is celebrated on the first day of Shawaal, the tenth month in the Muslim calendar, to mark the end of a month-long fast during the month of Ramadan. As the third “pillar” or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one’s spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to Allah. Ramadan is also a time of concentrated worship, reading the Quran, purifying one’s behavior, giving charity, and doing virtuous deeds.
The secondary objective of fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing compassion for the less fortunate, and learn to be thankful and appreciative for all of God’s bounties. Fasting is also advantageous to health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits.
Eid Al Fitr is a day of joy and thanksgiving. On this day, Muslims show their joy for the health, strength, and opportunities of life, which Allah has given them to fulfill their obligations of fasting and other good deeds during the month of Ramadan. It is considered unholy to fast on this day. It is also a day of forgetting old grudges and ill feelings towards other fellow men. The second important Eid celebration is called “Eid Al-Adha“.
Although only the pilgrims in Makkah can participate in the Hajj fully, all the other Muslims in the world join with them by celebrating Eid Al-Adha, or “Celebration of Sacrifice.” On the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world celebrate this feast of commitment, obedience, and self-sacrifice to Allah. They wear their nicest clothing and attend Salatul-Eid (Eid Prayer) in the morning. This is followed by a short sermon, after which everyone socializes. Next, people visit each other’s homes and partake in festive meals with special dishes, beverages, and desserts. Children receive gifts and sweets on this happy occasion. In addition, like the pilgrims in Makkah, the Muslims, who can afford to do so, offer domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Ibrahim’s sacrifice. The meat is distributed for consumption to family, friends, and to the poor and needy. Prayers are offered in mosques and Idgahs and elaborate festivities are held.