Ramadan/ Eid Al-Fittr – Muslim month of fasting and Festival   1 comment

English: Muslim Soldiers bow down in prayer du...

English: Muslim Soldiers bow down in prayer during the celebration of Eid-Al-Fitr Sunday at the Joe E. Mann Center. Eid-Al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims worldwide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The duty of fasting through the month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim Calendar, affects the life of every one of those who follow the faith of Islam. It is one of ‘the five pillars’ of the faith, one of the most important acts of Muslims throughout the ‘uma’, the world-wide community of the faithful. The believer should have nothing to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset for a period of twenty-eight days.

The timing of the fast has changed several times, but now Ramadan is established to include ‘Lailat al Qadr‘, ‘The Night of Power’, which celebrates the night in which the Prophet Mohammed first received the message from God communicated by the Angel Gabriel. Mohammed was forty years old, and from then on he recorded his inspirations which comprise the holy book of Islam, The Qur’an. The communication of this to the Prophet continued until his death, twenty-three years later.

The observance of the fast  is not only concerned with avoiding food and drink. It demands that the believer avoids anything which might distract from thinking about God, including back-biting, slander, swearing, indecent behaviour and dishonesty. The fast is not obligatory to every believer on every day of the month. Certain days are considered better days, but Muslims observe the fast as well as they are able without making themselves ill or depressed. Alternate days, or one day in three form the common pattern.

Reading The Qur’an, another of ‘the five pillars’, is also an important part of the fast, and some Muslims read a thirteenth part of the book each day, thus reading the whole book during Ramadan. The first verses recited to the Prophet were:

Read, in the name of the Sustainer who created Man,

Thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One

Who taught the use of the pen –

Taught Man that which he knew not.

It is difficult for ‘western’ minds to appreciate The Qur’an, for in translation the beauty and musical quality is lost. It is meant to be read aloud and listened to. However, Christians are sometimes surprised to find many references to characters in both Old and New Testaments, including Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, Mary and Jesus. Mary, the mother of Jesus, stands highest among the women honoured in The Qur’an, and the story of the Angel Gabriel to her to tell her that she was to give birth to Jesus is told more than once. In the chapter named after her, the story begins:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, and make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, and had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. He said, ‘I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son.’

The Muslim lives by The Qur’an, which from the first rituals of birth through to the end of life in this world, holds the guiding principles of Islam.

The arrival of the new moon announcing the end of Ramadan is awaited with great excitement. This is a party occasion with visits to the Mosque, friends’ houses and exchanges of greeting in the streets. One of the most common forms of greeting is ‘If I have done you wrong, please forgive me’. The Festival at the end of Ramadan lasts three days and is known as Eid Al-Fittr, ‘the feast of the breaking of the fast’. Another feature of the ending of the fast is its combination with the festival of the dead when families visit the graves and tombs of relatives.

One response to “Ramadan/ Eid Al-Fittr – Muslim month of fasting and Festival

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