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News Code: 1125

 

Muslims mark start of Ramadan

Muslims around the world began their observance of the holy month of Ramadan around the world, with fasting starting Saturday/Sunday. For the next 29 or 30 days, more than 1.3 billion people, or 23 percent of the world’s population, plan to take part in the religious practice of fasting from pre-dawn to dusk each day.

The holy month of Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar  in which Muslims from all over the world participate in fasting from dawn  until dusk. In addition to refraining from consuming food and drink  during this blessed month, Muslims must practise self-discipline and  abstain from sinful acts. Self-discipline during the month of Ramadhan includes  control of the tongue as well as eyes and ears.

During Ramadhan believers are  expected more than usual to refrain from performing or otherwise being involved in  acts such as slander, gossip, and profanity, or even being in an environment where  such behaviours are encouraged.

The month of Ramadhan is a time for reflection  too. And it provides a blueprint for how one must conduct one’s life throughout the  remaining eleven months of the year.  Fasting during the month of Ramadhan was ordained in the year 624 C.E., the  second year of the Islamic calendar. This religious obligation is spelt out in the  second chapter of the Holy Qur’an, verses 183 and 185: “O you who believe! Fasting  is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may  guard (against evil)”. 

During this holy and blessed month, God multiplies his blessings for His Creation.  Ramadhan provides the faithful with an opportunity to get closer to their Creator,  and to absolve themselves of their impurities and repent for their misdeeds. It is  a season of repentance, prayers, reciting the Holy Qur’an and asking for prosperity.  According to the Prophet(s) the month of Ramadhan is a month of blessings, mercy  and forgiveness. It is a month in which Muslims are guests of Almighty God and  their supplications, prayers and deeds are accepted and rewarded so benevolently  that it is stated that the recitation of one verse from the Holy Qur’an is equivalent  to the recitation of the entire Holy Qur’an.

Ramadhan provides an opportunity for Muslims to rekindle relationships with their  family, friends and other members of the community. It is a time when Muslims  demonstrate their charitable nature, and stand in unison with those who are less  fortunate. In relation to the importance of reaching out and building the spirit of  brotherhood, the Prophet Muhammad(s) stated: “O People! One who gives Iftar (the  evening meal to break the fast) to a fasting person in this month will be like one  who has freed someone (a slave) and his past sins will be forgiven”  The holy month of Ramadhan has another and even more profound significance, as  it was during this month that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad(s).

 It was revealed in the ‘Night of Power’ (2:185, 44:3, and 97:1) or the ‘Night of Destiny’.  The Night of Power is an exceedingly blessed night. It is mentioned in the Holy  Qur’an (97:2) that the Night of Power is better than one thousand months. This  is interpreted to mean that the reward of any good deed in the Night of Power is  better than the reward of the same deed in a thousand other months. Angels and  holy spirits descend to earth during this night with peace and special blessings from  God for those who seek His mercy and bounties through prayer and supplications  (97:5).

Unfortunately, the precise timing of the Night of Power is unknown; however  it is believed to be one of the last ten nights of Ramadhan.  Members of other Abrahamic faiths can relate to the month of Ramadhan, as they  also have their own periods of fasting and self-reflection. In Christianity the 40 days  of Lent are observed by giving up a common vice or luxury as a form of self-sacrifice  or penitence, and in Judaism seven days of fasting and supplication are observed in  the run-up to the holy day of Yom Kippur.  In summary, Ramadhan is a time in which Muslims observe self-restraint and  abstain from food, drink and sin.

Although this can be difficult, the self-discipline  developed during Ramadhan prepares the believer for the rigours of the spiritual  journey that lies ahead. Fasting also allows people to gain an appreciation of how  the less fortunate survive in the face of hunger and thirst, and in return learn to  appreciate their own blessings. •