Ramadan

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This article is about religious observances during the month of Ramadan. For the actual calendar month, see Ramadan (calendar month). For the village in Iran, see Ramadan, Iran.
Ramadan
Welcome Ramadhan.jpg
A crescent moon can be seen over palm trees at sunset in Manama, marking the beginning of the Islamic month of Ramadan in Bahrain
Observed by Muslims
Type Religious
Celebrations Community iftars and Community prayers
Observances
Begins 1 Ramadan
Ends 29, or 30 Ramadan
Date Variable (follows the Islamic lunar calendar)
2014 date 29 June[1] – 27 July[2]
2015 date 18 June – 16 July
2016 date 7 June – 7 July
Frequency annual
Related to Eid al-Fitr, Laylat al-Qadr

Ramadan (/ˌræməˈdɑːn/; Arabic: رمضانRamaḍān, IPA: [rɑmɑˈdˤɑːn];[variations] Persian: رَمَضانRamazān; Urdu: رَمْضانRamzān; Turkish: Ramazan; Indonesian/Malay: Puasa or Bulan Puasa) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar;[3] Muslims worldwide observe this as a month of fasting.[4][5] This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.[6] The month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in the hadiths.[7][8]

The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, which means scorching heat or dryness.[9] Fasting is fardh ("obligatory") for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, travelling, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or going through menstrual bleeding.[10] Fasting the month of Ramadan was made obligatory (wājib) during the month of Sha'aban, in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina. Fatwas have been issued declaring that Muslims who live in regions with natural phenomenon such as the midnight sun or polar night should follow the timetable of Mecca.[11]

While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations; in some interpretations, Muslims also refrain from other behavior that could be perceived as sinful, such as swearing, engaging in disagreements, backbiting and procrastination. Food and drink is served daily, before dawn and after sunset.[12][13] Spiritual rewards thawab for fasting are also believed to be multiplied within the month of Ramadan.[14] Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes the increased offering of salat (prayers) and recitation of the Quran.[15][16]

In the Quran[edit]

Chapter 2, Revelation 185, of the Quran states:

The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.[Quran 2:185]

Thus, according to the Quran, Muhammad first received revelations in the lunar month of Ramadan. Therefore, the month of Ramadan is considered to be the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar, the recording of which began with the Hijra.

According to the Quran, fasting was also obligatory for prior nations of Islamic prophets and it should be noted that even the pagans of Arabia used to observe fasting prior to Islamic tradition. However, prior to Islam's exclusion of intercalary days from its calendar, the name of this month was Nātiq and, due to the intercalary days added, always occurred in the warm season.[17]

It is believed that the first revelation to Muhammad was sent down during the month of Ramadan.[18] Furthermore, God proclaimed to Muhammad that fasting for His sake was not a new innovation in monotheism, but rather an obligation practiced by those truly devoted to the oneness of God.[19]

Origins[edit]

Ramadan was originally a pagan festival in the pre-Islamic Sabaean culture of Arabia. Originally the fast was from moon-rise to moon-set, a festival in dedication to the moon god. This festival was observed by many pagan societies throughout Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and even Persia.[20][21] This was later adopted by Muhammad, and the fast rules were set to sunrise to sundown. Prior to Islam's exclusion of intercalary days from its calendar, the name of this month was Nātiq and, due to the intercalary days added, always occurred in the warm season.[17]

During the pre-Islamic period, the Quraysh tribe and the Jews fasted on the day of Ashura.[22][23][24] Ashura marks two important events: the day Noah left the Ark and the day that Moses was saved from the Egyptians by God.[25] Ashura may or may not be referring to the Jewish practice of fasting on Yom Kippur.[26][27][28]

Abu Zanad, an Arabic writer from Iraq who lived after the founding of Islam around 747 AD, wrote that at least one Mandaean community located in al-Jazira (modern northern Iraq) observed Ramadan before converting to Islam.[29]

Historically, Ramadan comes "from the strict Lenten discipline of the Syrian churches".[30]

Important dates[edit]

The beginning and end of Ramadan are determined by the lunar Islamic calendar.

Beginning[edit]

Click to view larger image

Hilāl (the crescent) is typically a day (or more) after the astronomical new moon. Since the new moon marks the beginning of the new month, Muslims can usually safely estimate the beginning of Ramadan.[31] However, to many Muslims, this is not in accordance with authenticated Hadiths stating that visual confirmation per region is recommended. The consistent variations of a day have existed since the time of Muhammad.[32]

Night of Power[edit]

Main article: Laylat al-Qadr

Laylat al-Qadr, which in Arabic means "the night of power" or "the night of decree", is considered the holiest night of the year.[33][34] This is the night in which Muslims believe the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to Muhammad stating that this night was "better than one thousand months [of proper worship], as stated in Chapter 97:3 of the Qu'ran.

Also, generally, Laylat al-Qadr is believed to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during the last ten days of Ramadan, i.e., the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th. The Dawoodi Bohra Community believe that the 23rd night is laylat al Qadr.[35] [36]

End[edit]

Main articles: Eid al-Fitr and Eid prayers

The holiday of Eid al-Fitr [(Arabic:عيد الفطر),(Bengali: ঈদুল ফিত্‌র), "festivity of breaking the fast"] marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions. This first day of Shawwal is called Eid al-Fitr. Eid al-Fitr may also be a reference towards the festive nature of having endured the month of fasting successfully and returning to the more natural disposition (fitra) of being able to eat, drink and resume intimacy with spouses during the day.[citation needed]

Religious practices[edit]

Azim Azimzade. Ramadan of the poor people. 1938

The predominant practice in Ramadan is fasting from dawn to sunset. The pre-dawn meal before the fast is called the suhoor, while the meal at sunset that breaks the fast is the iftar. Considering the high diversity of the global Muslim population, it is impossible to describe typical suhoor or iftar meals.

Muslims also engage in increased prayer and charity during Ramadan. Ramadan is also a month where Muslims try to practice increased self-discipline. This is motivated by the Hadith, especially in Al-Bukhari[37] and Muslim,[38] that "When Ramadan arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up and Shaytan (devil) are put in chains."[39]

Fasting[edit]

Main article: Sawm of Ramadan

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The fast (sawm) begins at dawn and ends at sunset. In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking, Muslims also increase restraint, such as abstaining from sexual relations and generally sinful speech and behavior. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to better practice self-discipline, self-control,[40] sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat).[41]

It becomes compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy and sane, and have no disabilities or illnesses. Many children endeavour to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life.

Exemptions to fasting are travel, menstruation, severe illness, pregnancy, and breast-feeding. However, many Muslims with medical conditions insist on fasting to satisfy their spiritual needs, although it is not recommended by the hadith. Professionals should closely monitor individuals who decide to persist with fasting.[42] Those who were unable to fast still must make up the days missed later.[43]

Suhoor[edit]

Main article: Suhoor

Each day, before dawn, many Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called the suhoor. After stopping a short time before dawn, Muslims begin the first prayer of the day, Fajr.[44][45] At sunset, families hasten for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar.

Iftar[edit]

Main article: Iftar

In the evening, dates are usually the first food to break the fast; according to tradition, Muhammad broke fast with three dates. Following that, Muslims generally adjourn for the Maghrib prayer, the fourth of the five daily prayers, after which the main meal is served.[46]

Social gatherings, many times in a buffet style, are frequent at iftar. Traditional dishes are often highlighted, including traditional desserts, and particularly those made only during Ramadan. Water is usually the beverage of choice, but juice and milk are also often available, as are soft drinks and caffeinated beverages.[42]

In the Middle East, the iftar meal consists of water, juices, dates, salads and appetizers, one or more main dishes, and various kinds of desserts. Usually, the dessert is the most important part during iftar. Typical main dishes are lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables, or roast chicken served with chickpea-studded rice pilaf. A rich dessert, such as luqaimat, baklava or kunafeh (a buttery, syrup-sweetened kadaifi noodle pastry filled with cheese), concludes the meal.[47]

Over time, iftar has grown into banquet festivals. This is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities, but may also occupy larger spaces at masjid or banquet halls for 100 or more diners.[48]

Charity[edit]

Main articles: Zakāt and Sadaqah
Men praying during Ramadan at the Shrine of Hazrat Ali or "Blue Mosque" in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan

Charity is very important in Islam, and even more so during Ramadan. Zakāt, often translated as "the poor-rate", is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam; a fixed percentage of the person's savings is required to be given to the poor. Sadaqah is voluntary charity in giving above and beyond what is required from the obligation of zakāt. In Islam, all good deeds are more handsomely rewarded in Ramadan than in any other month of the year. Consequently, many will choose this time to give a larger portion, if not all, of the zakāt that they are obligated to give. In addition, many will also use this time to give a larger portion of sadaqah in order to maximize the reward that will await them at the Last Judgment.[citation needed]

Nightly prayers[edit]

Main article: Tarawih

Tarawih (Arabic: تراويح) refers to extra prayers performed by Muslims at night in the Islamic month of Ramadan. Contrary to popular belief, they are not compulsory.[49] However, many Muslims pray these prayers in the evening during Ramadan. Some scholars[who?] maintain that Tarawih is neither fard or a Sunnah, but is the preponed Tahajjud (night prayer) prayer shifted to post-Isha' for the ease of believers. But a majority of Sunni scholars regard the Tarawih prayers as Sunnat al-Mu'akkadah, a salaat that was performed by the Islamic prophet Muhammad very consistently.

Recitation of the Quran[edit]

In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran. Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Quran by means of special prayers, called Tarawih. These voluntary prayers are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Quran (juz', which is 1/30 of the Quran) is recited. Therefore, the entire Quran would be completed at the end of the month. Although it is not required to read the whole Quran in the Tarawih prayers, it is common.

Cultural practices[edit]

Striking the bedug in Indonesia
Fanous Ramadan decorations in Cairo, Egypt
Ramadan in the Old City of Jerusalem

In some Muslim countries today, lights are strung up in public squares, and across city streets, to add to the festivities of the month. Lanterns have become symbolic decorations welcoming the month of Ramadan. In a growing number of countries, they are hung on city streets.[50][51][52] The tradition of lanterns as a decoration becoming associated with Ramadan is believed to have originated during the Fatimid Caliphate primarily centered in Egypt, where Caliph al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah was greeted by people holding lanterns to celebrate his ruling. From that time, lanterns were used to light mosques and houses throughout the capital city of Cairo. Shopping malls, places of business, and people's homes can be seen with stars and crescents and various lighting effects, as well.

As the world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia has diverse Ramadan traditions. On the island of Java, many Javanese Indonesians bathe in holy springs to prepare for fasting, a ritual known as Padusa. The city of Semarang marks the beginning of Ramadan with the Dugderan carnival, which involves parading the Warak ngendog, a dragon-like creature allegedly inspired by the Buraq. In the Chinese-influenced capital city of Jakarta, fire crackers were traditionally used to wake people up for morning prayer, until the 19th Century. Towards the end of Ramadan, most employees receive a one-month bonus known as Tunjangan Hari Raya. Certain kinds of food are especially popular in Ramadan, such as beef in Aceh, and snails in Central Java. The iftar meal is announced every evening by striking the bedug, a giant drum, in the mosque.

Penalties for infraction[edit]

In some Muslim countries, failing to fast or the open flouting of such behavior during Ramadan is considered a crime and is prosecuted as such. For instance, in Algeria, in October 2008 the court of Biskra condemned six people to four years in prison and heavy fines.[53]

In Kuwait, according to law number 44 of 1968, the penalty is a fine of no more than 100 Kuwaiti dinars, or jail for no more than one month, or both penalties, for those seen eating, drinking or smoking during Ramadan daytime.[54][55] In the U.A.E., eating or drinking during the daytime of Ramadan is considered a minor offence and would be punished by up to 240 hours of community service.[56]

In Egypt, alcohol sales are banned during Ramadan.[57]

In Kermanshah, Iran, a non Muslim was sentenced to having his lips burnt with a cigarette and five Muslims publicly flogged with 70 stripes for eating during Ramadan.[58]

Other legal issues[edit]

Some countries have laws that amend work schedules in Ramadan. Under U.A.E. labor law, the maximum working hours are to be 6 hours per day and 36 hours per week. Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait have similar laws.[59]

Health issues[edit]

Benefits[edit]

It has been suggested that fasting during Ramadan has numerous health benefits, including: improved brain function and alertness due to greater brain cell production;[60][61] greatly reduced stress levels due to a reduction in cortisol;[60] a reduction of cholesterol;[60][62] a reduction of blood glucose LDL cholesterol levels;[63] increases in HDL cholesterol;[64] Weight loss due to the use of fat for energy while preserving muscle;[61] decrease of waist circumference;[64] decrease of body mass index;[64] decrease of blood sugar;[64] decrease of mean arterial pressure;[64] better control of diabetes;[65] reduced blood pressure;[61] and a detoxification process.[61]

Concerns[edit]

Kidney disease[edit]

Ramadan alters the circadian rhythm and the necessary water supply for humans.[66] An updated review of the literature by an Iranian group suggested fasting during Ramadan might produce renal injury in patients with moderate (GFR <60 ml/min) or worse kidney disease, but was not injurious to renal transplant patients with good function or most stone forming patients.[67]

Infectious disease[edit]

Mass gathering events like the gathering of huge numbers of pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia's holy sites during Ramadan and Hajj may give infections, such as Middle East respiratory syndrome, the opportunity to spread.[68]

Athletes[edit]

Athletes participating in Ramadan should keep in mind the necessary nutrition and sleep patterns during their training regimens. Most Muslim athletes have said that they experience their best workouts during Ramadan in the morning. Evening time workouts may cause them to feel sick. A big proponent of recovery after a workout is the consumption of carbohydrates. During fasting, they are not allowed to consume this, making it more difficult for the body to recover. [69]

Crime rates[edit]

Some reports state that crime rates drop during the month of Ramadan.[70] Some reports corroborate this claim, either from police reports,[71] or by an authoritative statement from a senior cleric.[72] Sometimes such reports come from bodies alleged to be acting for religious authorities. A 2011 report describes a decade long year on year drop in murder-rate during Ramadan.[73] Other reports come from academic sources, one paper describes dramatic falls in crime rates in Iran during Ramadan.[74] A Saudi study found no significant change in crime, although it reported a significant decrease in alcohol consumption crimes during Ramadan.[75] Other sources state that crime rates rise during Ramadan. A Turkish newspaper reports a doubling in the rates of the murder from three per day to sevenper day, with a higher rate of women being murdered, during the early days of Ramadan.[76] An Indonesian report also claimed a hike in violent street crime in Ramadan.[77] The reports in Indonesia are widely corroborated.[78][79] In the second report, the Jakarta's General Crime Unit director, Sr. Comr. Muhammad Iriawan, said "[C]rimes such as house break-ins and robberies tend to increase during Ramadan", and called on residents to be alert. In 2014, the city again expects an increase, and has drafted extra police in anticipation.[80] Similar reports of considerable rises in violent crime pertain in Algeria,[81] where 220% rises in some violent crimes were described during the month. Yemen and Egypt have also seen reports of sharp local rises during Ramadan of serious crime.[82][83]

Ramadan in polar regions[edit]

Duration of dawn to sunset time varies in different parts of the world according to summer or winter solstices of the sun. Most Muslims fast for 12-16 hours during Ramadan. However, in polar regions the period between dawn and dusk may exceed 22 hours. For example in 2014 Muslims in Reykjavik, Iceland and Trodheim, Norway fasted almost 22 hours, while Muslims in Sydney, Australia fasted for only 9 hours and 56 minutes. Muslims in areas where continuous night or day is observed during Ramadan follow the fasting hours in the nearest city where fasting is observed at dawn and sunset. Alternatively, Muslims may follow Mecca time.[84]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

^/ramadˤaːn/ : In Arabic phonology, it can be [rɑmɑˈdˤɑːn, ramadˤɑːn, ræmæˈdˤɑːn], depending on the region.

References[edit]

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  84. ^ See article "How Long Muslims Fast For Ramadan Around The World" -Huffingtonpost.co /31 July 2014 and article "Fasting Hours of Ramadan 2014" -Onislam.net / 29 June 2014 and article "The true spirit of Ramadan" -Gulfnews.com /31 July 2014

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