What is the Muslim month of Ramadan?
August 10, 9:19 PM · Priscilla Martinez - DC Muslim Examiner
Partial solar eclipse (AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer)American Muslims will begin the annual Ramadan fast on Saturday, August 22. In keeping with the divine commandment in the Holy Qur'an,
O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it has been prescribed to those before you in order that you may attain God-consciousness" (2:183),
Muslims will refrain from all food and drink during daylight everyday for about a month. The Eid al-Fitr holiday ends the month of fasting.
Fasting is an instrument for gaining closeness to God and achieving purification of heart and mind. Muslims look forward to the coming of Ramadan with great longing for the spiritual, physical, and emotional benefits this special season brings.
Ramadan is also important for Muslims because it is the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims consider the Qur'an to be God's speech recorded in the Arabic language and transmitted to humanity through Muhammad, the last of the prophets. This tradition of God-chosen prophets or messengers includes such figures as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. Muslims believe that over a period of twenty-three years, various verses and chapters of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel. The Qur'an is comprised of 114 chapters of varying length, with titles such as "Abraham," "The Pilgrimage," and "Mary."
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day. This means not consuming food or drink, including water, during the daylight hours. Muslims arise early in the morning during Ramadan to have a pre-dawn breakfast meal. They will then complete the fast at dusk by having a meal that usually includes dates, fresh fruits, appetizers, beverages and dinner.
Ramadan is also a month of heightened devotion. The five daily prayers are performed with greater intensity. The community gathers at the mosque nightly for extra prayers called taraweeah. During the last ten days of Ramadan, some families seclude themselves in the mosque for itikaf, a night spent performing even more prayers and reading the Qur’an. It is a spiritually intense period of reflection and devotion whose purpose is to seek guidance and ask for forgiveness.
There are many other important lessons learned during this month as well. In Ramadan, Muslims try to practice what's become known as "the five S's:"
The first S is sabr, which means “patience.” In Ramadan, Muslims practice being patient. Sometimes waiting is hard, but it allows a patient person to build a sense of self-control and willpower, which can be beneficial throughout life in dealing with societal pressure and peer pressure. Fasting also helps one learn to control natural urges such as hunger and thirst, which in turn strengthens the ability to resist temptations for things which are not necessary, such as unhealthy or harmful substances and behaviors.
The second S is shukur, which means “gratitude.” Ramadan reminds a Muslim to always be thankful for his or her blessings. Not just for the great tasting food in the family refrigerator, but for family, friends, and health. The more thankful one feels for the things usually taken for granted, the happier one feels about everything else. Gratitude helps develop compassion for those who are less fortunate and underprivileged since each day of being grateful leads to greater appreciation for one's own blessings.
The third S is salam, which means “peace.” During Ramadan, Muslims try even moreso to control any sort of angry behavior. Of course, normally one should not yell, fight, or use bad language, but most especially not during Ramadan. It's important to find peaceful ways to solve problems and also to help others to be peaceful in the way they act and speak.
The fourth S is sadaqah, which means “charity.” While Muslims are fasting, they find out what it is like for people who do not have any food, clothing, or even a home. Hopefully, as a result, they try to find ways to help others who do not have such blessings. In today's economy, this can be even more of a challenge, but that makes it even more necessary. Ramadan is an opportune time to cultivate compassion for others, but in particular for the poor. Muslims are urged to be more generous during Ramadan – giving of their time, giving of their wealth, and giving of themselves.
The fifth S is salat, which means “prayer.” During Ramadan, Muslims perform extra acts of worship, specifically the special taraweeah prayers every night during which a portion of the Qur’an is recited. By the end of the month, the entire Qur’an will have been recited in congregational prayers.
As one of the most special times of the year, Ramadan offers a time for Muslims to purify their bodies as well as their souls by developing a greater sense of humility, spirituality, and community. Ramadan is a very spiritual time, contributing to a greater sense of generosity and forgiveness to be carried forward and practiced throughout the rest of the year.
For more info:
See the wonderful resources, for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, at SoundVision's Ramadan page and Eid page.
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Priscilla Martinez is an Examiner from Washington DC. You can see Priscilla's articles at: "http://www.Examiner.com/x-13139-DC-Muslim-Examiner"
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