If you ever travel to the Arabian Gulf Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam Ramadan is truly going to let you experience the rich heritage and traditional customs celebrated in full glory. Ramadan holds significant importance in the Islamic culture. It is observed in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims believe it is during this month the holy book of Quran was revealed upon the messenger of Allah, Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).
The five pillars of Islam are considered to be the core beliefs and practices of a Muslim life.
-Shahada (declaration of faith)
There are no gods but only one god which is Allah and Mohammad is his prophet (messenger).
Ramadan begins at the first sighting of the new crescent moon and lasts until the next sighting. During this phase Muslims abstain themselves from food, drinks, and any bad conduct right from dawn to dusk. The entire month is transitioned into a spiritual journey of intermittent fasting, religious prayers, good conduct, and charity. As per hadith (sayings and doings of prophet Mohammad) Allah wishes to remind every Muslim, suffering of the less fortunate and be grateful In life. During observation of the fast one sticks to just 2 meals a day. Suhoor before Sunrise and Iftiyar after Sunset. Usually a cannon is fired to mark the end of fast for the day. As a tradition Muslims break fast with consumption of dates and water. While some prefer to follow it with delicious starters and sweets as per their preference of taste, the health-conscious folks keep a mindful watch and prefer to make use of the opportunity to shed off those extra kilos.
In Islam, Muslims are obligated to perform prayers 5 times daily.
Fajr (before sunrise)
Men go to mosques to attend congregational prayers while women offer prayers at homes. During Ramadan it’s a delight to see mosques full with both men and women paying equal visit. In addition to regular daily prayers, Muslims also offer special prayers at night called Taraweh. The Imam (who leads prayer in the mosque) recites different chapters and verses from Quran each day. The Quran consists of 30 chapters. The Imam completes recitation of the holy book (30 chapters-30 days). The most interesting part comes in the last 10 days of Ramadan. The night of Lailatul Qadr (the first revelation of the holy Quran) is said to fall on one of these nights and is the night of repentance, forgiveness, rewards, and blessings. During this time in addition to Taraweh prayers, Muslims also offer special prayers called Qiyam-ul-layl or Tahajjud. Some devoted Muslims even perform Itikaf (stay overnight at the mosque to offer prayers and recite the holy Quran) in anticipation for the night of Lailatul Qadr.
Ramadan is observed as a spiritual journey where one can learn to practice discipline and control desires. Sacrifice, patience, generosity, and good behavior are few of the key virtues one can reflect upon self-introspection. the holy month initiates the process of inner engineering, healing, and rebooting of the mind, body, and soul. The magnitude of transformation is beyond explanation and can only be experienced. By the end of Ramadan a true Muslim is elevated to the epitome of Humanity. The world today largely speaks about the health benefits of mindful intermittent fasting. Ramadan is one such good example. I being a Muslim sharing my first hand experience and I can vouch that the results are phenomenal. Year after year I religiously follow the challenging path for 30 days in quest to seek repentance and forgiveness. By the end of the Ramadan phase I can see and feel a phenomenal visible difference. I come out clean with my faith revived each time and feeling lighter flushing out toxins and extra kilos. It’s simply beautiful, you know!
Celebrations on Eid-ul-Fitr are quite grandeur. The whole city gears up with decorations and shops offering huge discounts. Shopping begins in full swing during the last days of Ramadan. Deep cleaning of homes and preparation of food begins a day before itself. Women even get their hands painted with henna. On the day of Eid in the wee hours of the morning, Men dress up in Distasha and Women in Abaya to head to their neighbourhood mosque to offer prayers. Special Eid prayers are hosted at the mosque followed by exchange of Eid Greetings. Scrumptious signature delicacies like Mughlai Biryani and Sheer Kurma are cooked while Homes are decorated and lit with lanterns. Beautiful traditional attires are adorned. Family and friends are welcomed with a warm hug, dates, and a welcome drink called Roohafza (Rose water). Some folks keep hopping to meet relatives. Guests keep dropping by throughout the clock. The day is well spent with meaning conversations and spreading sweetness and happiness around with loved ones. By the end of it, one can’t miss all social media handles bustling with pictures. These days Eid celebrations run up to a week.
Eid is surely a perfect time to feast your eyes and appetite. If you're yet to attend an Eid party get to know some Muslim folks around you for an invitation or simply casually crash one as an acquaintance, in either case you're welcomed with open arms :))