Muslims Celebrate Holy Month of Ramadan

PAULINE GUIUAN
El Vaquero Staff Writer

It was the ninth month of the
Muslim calendar, the month of
Ramadan, in 610 A.D. The
prophet Muhammed was sitting
alone in the wilderness near
Mecca when the angel Gabriel
appeared to him. Gabriel commanded
Muhammed to read and
taught him some verses from the
Koran; these holy revelations
continued for 10 days. It was on
the 27th day of Ramadan when,
according to the Koran, Allah
(God) revealed His plan for the
world for the following year.
This is why Muslims all over
the world celebrate Ramadan
today. Ramadan is a time of fasting
(known to Muslims as
“sawm”), worship, charity and
contemplation. Its focus is on self-sacrifice and devotion to
Allah. According to www.holidays.net, this is when Muslims
concentrate on their faith and
spend less time on everyday concerns
— including food and sexual
activity.

Because the Islamic calendar
is a lunar calendar — meaning
that each month begins with the
sighting of a new moon and is 11
days shorter than a regular calendar
month — Ramadan began on
Oct. 5 this year and will end on
Nov. 4.

During the Fast of Ramadan,
Muslims practice restraints over
their own lives. They do not eat
or drink during the day, even
excluding water, and at night
they only eat in small portions
and spend time with family and
friends. Smoking and sexual
relations are also forbidden during the fast.

All Muslims above
the age of 12 practice fasting,
which is one of the Five Pillars
of Islam, and this is believed to
cleanse their minds and bodies of
spiritual impurity and to remind
them of the suffering of the poor.

The fast is broken at the end
of the day with a meal called the
“iftar,” and then the fast is
resumed the next morning after
families partake of the “suhor,” a
meal taken before sunrise. This
is in accordance with a passage
from the Koran that says, “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.”

Five things are considered
most offensive during the fast:
“the telling of a lie, slander, denouncing someone behind his
back, false oath, greed and covetousness
(www.holidays.net).”

Muslims believe that all the spiritual
benefits acquired from the
fast can be destroyed by these
five sins.

It is also common for
Muslims to visit their mosques,
also known as their “masjid,”
and spend several hours praying
and studying the Koran. In addition
to the five daily prayers that
they recite, a special prayer
called the “Taraweeh” (which
means “night prayer”) is also
said on Ramadan, and this is usually
twice as long as the regular
prayer.

On the 27th night, when
Muhammed was believed to
have first received the Koran
from the angel, Muslims hold
special rituals, sometimes spending
the entire night in prayer.
This celebration is called the
“Laylat-al-Qadr,” or the Night of
Power.

The fast ends on the first day
of the month of Shawwal on the
Muslim calendar. This is celebrated
with the holiday of “Id-al
Fitr” or the Feast of Fast-Breaking. Friends and family
gather over large meals and
exchange gifts. In some cities,
huge fairs are held to celebrate
this holiday.

At the end of Ramadan,
Muslims claim to feel a heightened
sense of peace as well as
increased kinship with fellow
believers.