Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What is Ramadan?

If you have been watching the news then you have heard about the following:

HILLA, Iraq (Reuters) - A suicide bomber rammed a car into a Shi'ite mosque in central
Iraq' on Wednesday, bringing down part of the building and killing at least 26 worshippers celebrating the start of the holy month of Ramadan, police said.

Many hear about Ramadan. but if asked they really don't know anything about it. So I will provide some basic information:

When is Ramadan celebrated?
The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle. The month of Ramadan is the ninth month and begins with a combination of the sighting of the new moon and astronomical calculations. The exact time of Ramadan sometimes varies from place to place as some rely heavily on the moon sightings while others depend on science. An -->Imam--> (Muslim holy man) will declare the exact time of Ramadan just prior to its commencement. The fasting period ends upon the sighting of the next new moon, which occurs after 29 or 30 days.

This year Ramadan will be celebrated:
October 4 2005 -2 November 2005

What does the word Ramadan mean?
The name Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word -->ramida--> or -->ar-ramad-->, denoting intense scorching heat and dryness, especially the ground. From the same word there is -->ramdaa-->, meaning 'sunbaked sand' and the famous proverb -->Kal Mustajeer minar ramadaa binnar--> - to jump out of the frying pan into the fire. Some say it is so called because Ramadan scorches out the sins with good deeds, as the sun burns the ground.

What is the focus during Ramadan?
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of the religion of Islam and one of the highest forms of Islamic worship. Abstinence from earthly pleasures and curbing evil intentions and desires is regarded as an act of obedience and submission to God as well as an atonement for sins, errors, and mistakes. Called -->Ramadan--> (or -->Ramazan-->), Muslims fast during this month from the moment when it first starts to get light until sunset.

Muslims fast as an act of faith and worship towards Allah, seeking to suppress their desires and increase their spiritual piety. Fasting together as a worldwide community - -->Ummah--> - affirms the brotherhood and equality of man before Allah.

Muslims have to change their whole physical and emotional selves during this 30 long days of fasting. A typical day of fasting begins with getting up early, around 4:30a.m. and sharing a meal called -->Sahur--> together before the fast begins at dawn, about 5:10a.m. As dawn breaks, the first of five daily prayers, -->Fajr-->, is offered.

As the day proceeds, fasting Muslims are constantly bombarded with messages from their stomachs that it is time for breakfast, snack, lunch, and so on. And each time, Muslims remind themselves that they are fasting for the sole purpose of pleasing Allah and seeking his mercy. They offer the second and third prayers during early and late afternoon, respectively.
Fasting helps one to experience how a hungry person feels and what it is like to have an empty stomach. It teaches one to share the sufferings of the less fortunate. Muslims believe that fasting leads one to appreciate the bounties of Allah, which are usually taken for granted - until they are missed!

Throughout the day Muslims are encouraged to go out of their way to help the needy, both financially and emotionally. Some believe that a reward earned during this month is multiplied 70 times and more. For this reason, Ramadan is also known as the month of charity and generosity.

To a Muslim, fasting not only means abstaining from food, but also refraining from all vice and evils committed consciously or unconsciously. It is believed that if one volunteers to refrain from lawful foods and sex, they will be in a better position to avoid unlawful things and acts during the rest of the year.
The fast is broken at sunset. The Prophet Muhammed recommended breaking the fast with dates. Muslims are urged to invite others to break the fast with them. These gatherings are called -->Iftar--> parties.
Just after breaking the fast, and before dinner, Muslims offer the fourth of the five daily prayers, which is called the -->Maghrib--> prayer. After dinner, Muslims go to their houses of worship, called -->Mosques-->, to offer the -->Isha--> prayer, which is the last of the five daily prayers. The day ends with a special voluntary prayer, the -->Taraweeh-->, offered by the congregation reciting the -->Qur'an-->, the holy book of Islam.

The last ten days of Ramadan are considered highly blessed, especially the 27th night which is also called the '-->Night of Power-->', or the '-->Night of Destiny-->'. It is believed that on this night the prophet Muhammed received the first revelation of the Qur'an. For many Muslims, this period is marked by a heightened spiritual intensity and they may spend these nights praying and reciting the Qur'an.

After 30 days of fasting, the end of the month of Ramadan is observed with a day of celebration, called -->Eid-ul-Fitr-->. On this day, Muslims gather in one place to offer a prayer of thanks. It is traditional to wear new clothes, visit friends and relatives, exchange gifts, eat delicious dishes prepared for this occasion, and wait patiently for the next year.

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