Dates for your diary
By Jo Finzi
&otThis year’s ninth month of the Gregorian calendar coincides with the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, and the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
It marks the Holy Quran being “sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation;.
It’s during this month that Muslims fast, but that’s just part of the story. Fasting is unique in that it is a passive “pure” act of worship which nobody can control. It is not just self-denial, but voluntary self-discipline. It is not just deprivation, but requires a radical re-arrangement of the daily routine.
Ramadan is also a time for Muslims to concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation.
During the Fast of Ramadan, strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting.
At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called iftar. Then, later in the evening, it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning.
According to the Holy Quran one may eat and drink at any time during the night “until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night”.
The good that is acquired through the fast can be destroyed by five things - telling a lie; slander; denouncing someone behind his back; a false oath; and greed or covetousness.
These are considered offensive at all times, but are most offensive during the holy month.
Throughout the month, it is common for Muslims to go to the Mosque and spend several hours praying and studying the Quran. In addition to the five daily prayers, during Ramadan there’s a special prayer to recite called the Taraweeh prayer (Night Prayer) - usually 2-3 times as long as the daily prayers. Some Muslims spend the entire night in prayer and congregations aim at reciting the whole Qur’an.
On the evening of the 27th day of the month, Muslims celebrate the Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power). It is believed that on this night Mohammad (peace be upon him) first received the revelation of the Holy Quran. According to the Quran, this is when God determines the course of the world for the following year.
When the fast ends (the first day of the month of Shawwal) it is celebrated for three days in a holiday called Eid-al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Gifts are exchanged. Friends and family gather to pray together and for large meals. In some cities fairs are held to celebrate the end of the Fast of Ramadan.
Undoubtedly non-Muslims can benefit from some of the Ramadan traditions. Everyone can try to follow the guidelines for avoiding negative acts - and can also show understanding in the workplace towards colleagues who are fasting.
It’s a great opportunity for people of all nationalities and religions to communicate with each other and live and work in harmony.
Go and watch the cannon, try the iftar feast with friends and family, understand your neighbour a little more… and enjoy the Eid holiday!