What Ramadaan? Part I
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
* I actually wanted to kick off the Ramadhan series of posts with something like this, but that didn’t happen unfortunately. I know it’s now day 21, but better late than never inshaAllah! *
“Breakfast” is suddenly a pre-dawn affair and your main meal of the day could technically be the first meal of the night!
Your bed feels abandoned at the expense of your prayer mat and your mushaf is almost surgically attached to your hands
Extra long supplementary prayers become a part of your daily salaah routine for a month.
It must be Ramadhan!
Many non-Muslims know that “Ramadhan” is something from Islam and more specifically something to do with fasting. Alhamdulillah for those who know, the knowledge probably came from exposure to fellow students, colleagues or customers who happened to be Muslim and fasting at the time.
I’d hazard a guess and say that most non-Muslims who know what Ramadhan is would probably define it as a month when Muslims don’t eat and drink during daylight hours. Nothing wrong with that answer, we do refrain from food and drink from just before dawn until sunset, but Ramadhan is about a lot more than food and drink or the lack of it until it gets dark.
For most Muslims the month ushers in a whole new and exciting routine, an intensive month long training programme to help us get in spiritual shape for the next eleven months. In this post I want to share some of the unique features which characterise a Muslim’s Ramadhan routine, so non-Muslims can get a clearer idea of “what” exactly it is we Muslims are doing in this blessed month.
Ramadhan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar (which is lunar). The month officially begins with the onset of the new moon. As it isn’t always physically possible to individually sight the new moon, communities welcome the arrival of Ramadhan when they receive the declaration- either from their local Masjid, a moon-sighting committee (i.e. a body set up especially for this purpose!) or when the start of the new month has been confirmed by others such as the official declaration made by Saudi Arabia each year.
Even though it’s likely you won’t see anything, it’s really fun to go out into the garden anyway after sunset, “moon sighting” while waiting for the Ramadhan declaration. Or at least it’s something we always do in our family. The thing with Ramadhan is that the excitement begins even before the month starts!
During Ramadhan many Muslims observe an extra prayer known as taraweeh, which takes place after the last of the five daily prayers (‘Isha). As night precedes day in the Islamic calendar (a new night begins after sunset), the first taraweeh prayers of Ramadhan begin the night before the first day of fasting. The awesome thing about taraweeh is that it is all about Quran! Most masaajid will ensure that the full Quran is recited at least once all the way through during the month’s taraweeh prayers. In some masaajid more than one Quran is completed. When we talk about re-connecting with Allah’s book the taraweeh prayer is right up there: standing in prayer night after night, listening to the words of our Lord being recited, it is very hard for a heart (even a rusty one which has neglected Quran for most of the rest of the year) to not feel the effects. When you see grown men far from our notions of ‘soft’ weeping at the words of Allah in taraweeh prayer, you begin to see something of the blessings of Ramadhan.
I want to end this post with a picture of some very inspirational Somali brothers. Despite the immense hardships they are facing due to the drought and consequent difficulties in East Africa at the moment, these brothers are reaping the rewards of Ramadhan by not neglecting their hereafter. May Allah ease the affairs of our Somali brothers and sisters and all those suffering hardship and make these tests a means of their entering Jannah without questioning, aameen.
To be continued in Part II inshaAllah