over the world have begun their holy month of Ramadan in which they will
abstain from all food and drink from dawn till dusk for 29 to 30 days.
during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is obligatory for all
adult Muslims, except those who are elderly, sick or travelling. Pregnant and
nursing mothers and menstruating women are also exempted from keeping fast
during Ramadan. However, it is mandatory to make up for the missed days as soon
as the cause of delay is gone.
Ramadan is principally an exercise in spiritual self-purification. A fasting
Muslim is required not just to deny himself food, drinks, and sexual
intercourse from dawn to dusk but is also expected to practice patience and
selflessness. During the month of Ramadan, a person observing the fast has to
abstain from all evil including lying, backbiting, cheating, lewd conversation,
loss of temper and greed.
who does not give up uttering falsehood and acting according to it, God has no
need of his giving up his food and drink," said the Prophet Mohammed.
month of Ramadan in which the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammad is
not just about 'physical fasting' but a great opportunity to purify and
detoxify one's inner self and attain new spiritual heights.
who abstains from food, drink, and smoking learns to empathize with the
physical suffering and hardships of others.
hunger and thirst motivates the believer to alleviate the hunger, thirst, and
miseries of those around him. Deprivation and hunger nourish the soul of the
believer as he learns to show mercy to all fellow human beings and keep the
mind focused at submitting to God's will.
abstaining from lust, evil deeds, and thoughts gradually frees himself from the
shackles of physical desires, greed, and other undesirable habits. The essence
of fasting is to weaken and harness the forces that are Satan's means of
pushing the believer towards destruction.
occasion, the Prophet Mohammed said: "There are five things that break the
fast; telling lies, backbiting, telling tales, perjury, covetousness, and
for Prayer and Charity
noteworthy aspect of Ramadan is that in this month, Muslims can be seen
engaging in various types of charitable activities. Many Muslims choose Ramadan
to pay their Zakat or "compulsory charity" which is 2.5 percent of
one year’s total cumulative wealth as well as a voluntary charity called
Eid, the feast that comes at the end fasting, it is customary for everyone who
can afford it to donate a sum of money and hence is also called Zakat-al-Fitr
so that the poor will also be able to celebrate the festival.
during Ramadan is one of Islam's five main pillars or the framework of the
Muslim life. They other pillars are testimony of faith, prayer, giving Zakat or
support of the needy and the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once for those who
Ramadan, Muslims begin their day with a pre-dawn meal called Suhoor or Sehri
and the fast ends with Iftar, a lavish meal served after sunset, taken usually
with family, friends and community members. It is customary to breakfast by
eating dates before beginning the Iftar meal.
continue eating and drinking throughout the night until the next day's Suhoor.
During Ramadan, special evening prayers are conducted during which long
portions of the Quran are recited. These special prayers are known as Taraweeh.
At the end of the Ramadan month, Muslims celebrate the Festival of
Fast-Breaking, called Eid al-Fitr.
Ramadan has become synonymous with the 'month of food' and Suhoor and Iftars
have assumed the proportion of a huge commercial food industry. Ramadan
evenings in India are special as Muslims and non-Muslims throng markets to buy
their favourite Ramadan delicacies like fritters, kebabs and desserts.
and some other Indian cities the most special item of the traditional Iftar
platter is Haleem, a rich mishmash of pulses, meat and oil tempered with
strong spices. In interreligious India, people cutting across all religions can
be seen queuing up for hours at Haleem shops to have their bowls of the
piping hot dish, topped with generous quantities of butter, freshly cut
coriander, green chillies and slices of lemon.
feature of the month of Ramadan is the lavish 'Iftar-parties' where people
belonging to every faith come together and enjoy choicest of non-vegetarian
culinary delights, sherbets and fresh fruits. Even during the Suhoor hours,
markets come alive as people throng special street shops and eateries to have
their fill of hot curries, breads, sweet vermicelli, and Biryani.
also organize Iftars and Sehris for the poor and various free meal
centres are set up in Muslim-dominated localities where the needy are served
free meals and Sehri and Iftar kits. In poverty stricken streets of India, we
also see a good number of non-Muslims taking part in Iftar parties hosted by
Muslims which in a way help foster communal harmony in society.
like New Delhi, tourism companies organize food walks and special Sehri and
'Iftar-events' for foodies to explore Ramadan’s traditional flavours and
In an age
when Islamophobia has become a global phenomenon and Muslims are being equated
with violence and terrorism, a Muslim who is in a state of fasting, exercising
patience, self-restraint, kindness and mercy can help dispel the misconceptions
of Islam being a religion that promotes terror.
Umarah Jamali is a journalist based in Kolkata.