We are now halfway through the month June and July is fast approaching, so is the Holy Month of Ramadan which is expected to start during the first week of July 2013. Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims around the world. In a multicultural society like the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation, it is also important that non-Muslims understand the basic fundamentals of Ramadan as this knowledge will serve as guidelines on how non-Muslims shall interact with their Muslim friends, relatives, classmates, colleagues and acquaintances during this holy month.
For this two-part blog series, we have invited Ahmad Musahari, the author of the blog Anak Iluh, MD, a blogger friend from Jolo, Sulu and a Medicine student in UP Manila, to share with us what non-Muslim Pinoys should know and learn about Ramadan. For the first installment, Ahmad shares with us what Ramadan basically is, why is it important for Muslims and what Muslims do during Ramadan. For the second installment, Ahmad gives us an overview of the ethics that non-Muslims should observe during Ramadan. Magsukul/Salamat Ahmad!
By Anak Iluh (Ahmad Musahari)
Every year, there comes a very special visitor that Muslims are always looking up to. This is a very special event that lasts for one month: the Holy Month of Ramadhan. As this month draws near, you will see most Muslims getting more excited and eager for the first day of that month to come. This is one of the mysteries that non-Muslims are always curious about. What is Ramadhan? What is so special about it? Why do Muslims celebrate with joy when Ramadhan comes? In shaa Allah this post will answer these questions posted by our non-Muslim friends so that when this year’s Ramadhan comes, they will be more aware about it.
What is Ramadhan?
Ramadhan is the 9th month of the Hijra or Islamic Calendar. This is one of the special months for Muslims wherein one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam happens: As-sawmu Ramadhan or fasting in the whole duration of Ramadhan. For 29 to 30 days, Muslims would abstain from eating, drinking, having sexual contact with their spouse, and avoid unnecessary actions from Fajr (dawn) to Maghrib (dusk). This is one of the rigorous training in Islam to discipline one’s self in doing what Allah has ordained them to do in this month; to strive and do what is Halal (rightful and allowed in Islam) and avoid what is Haram (wrongful and unlawful in Islam). This is also the month of forgiveness wherein every Muslim would forgive everyone who had done wrong to him or her. It is also a month so special for Muslims as it is the month wherein one would return to the folds of Islam and ask for Allah, the most forgiving, for his blessings and his forgiveness.
As-sawm or fasting is one of the fundamental acts every Muslim (with some few exceptions) is obliged to do during this month. This is in accordance with the commandment of Allah in the holy Qur’an:
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.” –Surah Baqarah 2:183
Muslims would wake up early in the morning (about 3 AM), everyday and eat Shuhur: foods prepared before the beginning of fasting. The official fasting wherein no foods and drinks—even water—are allowed begins at the break of dawn until the sun sets. The adhan (call for prayer) during Maghrib or dusk prayer marks the end of one fasting day. As the call for prayer: “Allahu akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu akbar!” is recited in the masjids, the Muslims at same time would break their fast with light foods (iftar) before going to prayer. After prayers, dinner will be served.
What do Muslims do in Ramadhan?
But Ramadhan is not just a month of fasting for Muslims. It is also a month of worshipping Allah and improving one’s behavior towards other people. It is a month of Love and Brotherhood. During this month, every Muslim are highly encourage to do good deeds more often, as the rewards for each good deed done will be multiplied a hundredfold during this holy month. Muslims are also forbidden to get angry, to talk idly of others, to cheat and wrong others, be it Muslims or non-Muslims, and other unnecessary actions that would not beget any rewards from Allah. During this month, any form of violence is strictly forbidden.
The month of Ramadhan is also known as the “Month of Qur’an”. It was during Ramadhan that the Holy Qur’an was sent down by Allah through Jibreel to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him). And thus, each and every Muslim are highly encouraged to read the Qur’an daily and have a goal of finishing it at least once or twice for the whole duration of Ramadhan.
Salatu At-Tarawih is another special kind of prayers only done during Ramadhan. After the fifth obligatory prayer, the Salatu Eisha, is done (usually at about 7:15 in the evening), Tarawih then starts after a few minutes. Tarawih is usually done in the Masjid (mosques) where most of the Muslims—men, women and even children—in the neighborhood would participate and pray 8 to 20 rakaat (sets) of prayer. Tarawih would end at 8 to 9 PM depending on the length of each prayer and will continue until the end of Ramadhan.
Lastly and most importantly is the Eidul Fitr. This is one of the two grand festivities for Muslims to celebrate. Eidul Fitr is observed at the first day of Shawwal (the month after Ramadhan) commemorating the successful partaking of Muslims in the holy month of Ramadhan. The Salatul Eid, a special congregational prayer participated by a big number of Muslims will be conducted on the day of the Eid. This prayer is usually conducted in an open area like a dry field if not in big Masjids. Then a short Islamic sermon by a local imam will be heard by every Muslim attending the Eid prayer, reminding them of all the lessons of Ramadhan and to keep them in their hearts even after the holy month has passed. Afterwards, a great festivity will commence with every Muslim rejoicing for all the blessings Allah had given them for the whole month of Ramadhan and the next one to come. Muslims will visit each other’s house and greet their friends, meet their relatives, and rejoice with their family. Eidul Fitr is always one of the happiest days each Muslim would remember in his life.
But before I end this post, I wanted to remind everyone that I am no scholar in Islamic studies. If ever you find any errors in this post, pls don’t hesitate to inform me that I may edit and correct them. There may be a lot more things I failed to include in this post, so please forgive me for that shortcoming. Ramadhan is such a large topic to be discussed in such a short post. I would also highly suggest that you ask those who are more knowledgeable about Islamic rulings for more detailed information. Islam was made easy for everyone, but it should never be taken lightly and searching for more knowledge of the fundamentals of Islam is always highly encouraged.
May Allah guide us all to the right path and reward us for every good deed that we do. May He forgive us and may He allow us to receive his bountiful blessings in this coming Ramadhan and the next one to come.