Ramadan, the Month of Fasting - The Meaning of Ramadan
Ramadan is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. There are as many meanings of Ramadan as there are Muslims.
The third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one's spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur'an, giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds.
Read More Link On Right
As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God's bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.
Who Fasts in Ramadan?
While voluntary fasting is recommended for Muslims, during Ramadan fasting becomes obligatory. Sick people, travelers, and women in certain conditions are exempted from the fast but must make it up as they are able. Perhaps fasting in Ramadan is the most widely practiced of all the Muslim forms of worship.
The Sighting of the Moon
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The much-anticipated start of the month is based on a combination of physical sightings of the moon and astronomical calculations. The practice varies from place to place, some places relying heavily on sighting reports and others totally on calculations. In the United States, most communities follow the decision of the Islamic Society of North America, which accepts bonafide sightings of the new moon anywhere in the United States as the start of the new month. The end of the month, marked by the celebration of 'Eid-ul-Fitr, is similarly determined.
From Dawn to Sunset
The daily period of fasting starts at the breaking of dawn and ends at the setting of the sun. In between -- that is, during the daylight hours -- Muslims totally abstain from food, drink, smoking, and marital sex. The usual practice is to have a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before dawn and a post-fast meal (iftar) after sunset.
The Islamic lunar calendar, being 11 to 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, migrates throughout the seasons. Thus, since Ramadan begins on January 20 or 21 this year, next year it will begin on January 9 or 10. The entire cycle takes around 35 years. In this way, the length of the day, and thus the fasting period, varies in length from place to place over the years. Every Muslim, no matter where he or she lives, will see an average Ramadan day of the approximately 13.5 hours.
Devotion to God
The last ten days of Ramadan are a time of special spiritual power as everyone tries to come closer to God through devotions and good deeds. The night on which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet, known as the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr), is generally taken to be the 27th night of the month. The Qur'an states that this night is better than a thousand months. Therefore many Muslims spend the entire night in prayer.
During the month, Muslims try to read as much of the Qur'an as they can. Most try to read the whole book at least once. Some spend part of their day listening to the recitation of the Qur'an in a mosque.
Food in Ramadan
Since Ramadan is a special time, Muslims in many parts of the world prepare certain favorite foods during this month.
It is a common practice for Muslims to break their fast at sunset with dates (iftar), following the custom of Prophet Muhammad. This is followed by the sunset prayer, which is followed by dinner. Since Ramadan emphasizes community aspects and since everyone eats dinner at the same time, Muslims often invite one another to share in the Ramadan evening meal.
Some Muslims find that they eat less for dinner during Ramadan than at other times due to stomach contraction. However, as a rule, most Muslims experience little fatigue during the day since the body becomes used to the altered routine during the first week of Ramadan.
The Spirit of Ramadan
Muslims use many phrases in various languages to congratulate one another for the completion of the obligation of fasting and the 'Eid-ul-Fitr festival. Here is a sampling of them:
"Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year) - Arabic
"Atyab at-tihani bi-munasabat hulul shahru Ramadan al-Mubarak" (The most precious congratulations on the occasion of the coming of Ramadan) - Arabic
"Elveda, ey Ramazan" (Farewell, O Ramadan) - Turkish
"Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year) - Arabic
"'Eid mubarak (A Blessed 'Eid)" – universal
YAHOO SEARCH INFO ON RAMADAN:
You may be familiar with Ramadan's basic practices, such as abstaining from food, drink and sex during the daylight hours of the holy month, but there are some facts that you may not be aware of ...
Ramadan is the second highest spending month of the year in the Middle East: Many Muslims break their fast in restaurants and cafeterias during Ramadan, and enjoy entertainment until the early hours of the morning.
Others spend the evenings, after the sunset meal Iftar, wandering around shopping malls (many of which have extended opening hours), socialising and buying gifts. By the end of the month, consumer spending will have dramatically soared to make it the second biggest month after Christmas.
Companies such as telecoms providers, consumer goods brands and government agencies consequently spend up to half of their annual advertising budget during Ramadan as people in the region spend more time at home, shopping or calling friends and family.
Ramadan has no associated symbol: Christmas can be symbolized by a Christmas tree or Father Christmas (Santa Claus). While we think of the crescent moon and lanterns when we think of Ramadan, there is no representative symbol. Ramadan is characterized, instead, by exercising the rituals of fasting and dedication to Allah.
Ramadan charity: Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, makes it mandatory for all able Muslims to donate 2.5 per cent of their total annual wealth to the less fortunate. Helping the needy, deprived and poor is one of the most crucial aspects of Ramadan, so many Muslims prefer to practice zakat in this month, thereby also reaping the greatest spiritual reward from their zakat.
Muslims mark the end of Ramadan with a three-day celebration, Eid Al Fitr. During these three days, it is mandatory for fasting Muslims to participate in Zakat Al Fitr, which is the practice of donating food or money to the less privileged - those who cannot afford to indulge in the Eid Al Fitr meal.
Ramadan exemptions: While fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, not everyone is required to fast. The sick, the elderly, those who are traveling, pregnant and menstruating women are exempt from fasting. They are, however, required to make up missed fasts at a later date.
Ramadan concessions: Should an individual accidentally vomit whilst fasting, their fast is not broken and they do not have to make up for it after the month of Ramadan.
However, if the person deliberately vomits for whatever reason, he or she will have to make up for it, as they have broken the fast. Also, if a person who is fasting forgets themselves and samples the iftar meal while cooking it, that's also acceptable; as long as it was not done on purpose.
Source: Yahoo! Maktoob PUKmedia 16-07-2012 14:14:14