By Masiding Noor Yahya
ON Monday, May 6, Muslim Filipinos will join the more than 1 billion Muslims all over the world in the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
The start of Ramadan depends upon the appearance of the new moon as seen by man’s naked eyes. If the new moon is sighted on the 29th day of Rajab, the eighth month of the Islamic Hijrah, Ramadan begins on Sunday; if not, it would begin on Tuesday. But it is presumed that the crescent would not be seen in the Philippines on Saturday, therefore, Ramadan will start on Monday.
It is a common practice among religious scholars to go to the hilltops and seashore for the new moon sighting to help determine when to start fasting during Ramadan.
In Marawi City, the Islamic cultural capital of the Philippines, the local Mufti, who is the highest religious authority in the locality, in cooperation with the provincial and city government units, the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos and private Islamic organizations, will announce in various media platforms, whether the new moon has been sighted or not.
As the Muslim’s Hijrah calendar is lunar, it is based on the movement of the moon. Each month begins when the new moon appears; it is either 29 or 30 days, depending on the moon cycle, and the counting of days starts from sunset to sunset which is different from the Gregorian calendar in which a day begins from midnight to midnight.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Hijrah calendar, is an Islamic holy month, during which fasting, from dawn to dusk during the entire month is enjoined upon all able Muslim who have reached the age of puberty and are free from physical or mental illness.
A sick person is exempted from fasting but has to make up for it when he gets well, or has to feed at least one Muslim if he cannot fast because of lingering illness.
A traveler too is not required to fast, so is a woman who is observing her monthly period, but they have to make up the fast when able.
Fasting in Islam is abstaining from food and liquid intake, sexual lust, speaking bad and hurting words, doing immoral and illegal acts and other bad habits during the appointed time — from the appearance of the white thread before sunrise (dawn).
Those acts are in addition to what are already been forbidden to Muslims during their lifetime such as gambling, stealing, hurting and killing other creatures.
A married couple is not allowed to engage in lustful act as husband and wife from dawn (or the appearance of the white thread in the east before sunrise) to sunset.
History and obligations
Ramadan (also known as Ramzan, Ramadhan or Ramathan) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The word comes from the Arabic root “ramida” which roughly translates into “scorching heat.”
Fasting was made obligatory on all adult Muslims in the Second Year of Hijri (Migration from Makkah to Madinah of Muslims). Many children endeavor to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life.
Practices and blessings
Ramadan is considered one of the most blessed months in Islam. Muslims fast during this month, doing maximum Dhikr (remembrance) of Allah (SWT, or Subhanahu wa ta’ala, Arabic for “The most glorified, the most high”).
The month of Ramadan culminates with the festive occasion of Eid al Fitr, as Muslims thank Allah and celebrate the festival with religious fervor.
This month, Muslims immerse themselves in reading the Quran and Duas (supplication) and spending maximum time doing Dhikr.
The Muslims fast the whole month as it teaches them the true meaning of perseverance and tolerance. The Quran was also completed in this month.
How to fast?
A sawm (fast) is kept by Muslims from dawn to sunset, the timing of which varies with every region. During this time, they refrain from eating food, drinking, smoking and engaging in sexual relations.
During Ramadhan, Muslims also strive hard to refrain from any sinful behavior such as lying, cursing and uttering false speech.
Food eaten before sunrise is known as Suhur, and the one eaten after sunset is known as iftar. During these times, Muslims spend generously to make the food available for the whole community, specially the poor. The rewards of all good deeds are increased during the month of Ramadan, whether it is praying salat or giving charity. This Hadith testifies to this fact as well: “When Ramadan arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up and devils are put in chains.”(Sahih al-Bukhari, 1899)
Each day, before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called the suhur. After stopping a short time before dawn, Muslims begin the first prayer of the day, Fajr. Suhur (or sahari) is the pre-dawn meal which is very important during Ramadan since that is what one’s body thrives on all day and should be carefully planned for a steady diet plan that helps one stay healthy.
At sunset, Muslims get together for the iftar meal to break their fast. Just after listening to Maghrib Athan, they recite the Iftar Dua to ask Allah for His sustenance. Dates, generally in date-growing countries, are usually the first food to break the fast. Prophet Muhammad broke fast with three dates according to some traditions.
Social gatherings very frequently happen at iftar. Traditional dishes are often highlighted, including desserts, particularly those made only during Ramadan.
Recite Quran Kareem
In this holy month, Muslims are encouraged to recite the Qur’an. Ramadan is a month to remember this biggest blessing and source of guidance mankind was ever given.
Tarawih is one of the way Muslims complete the recitation of Holy Quran which are held in Mosques. It is Mustahab — an action which is rewarded, but whose omission is not punishable — for the Muslim to read whole Qur’an during Ramadhan and to strive to complete it, but that is not obligatory. Some Muslims do it by completing one juz (chapter) each day for the 30 days of Ramadan.
Lailat ul Qadr
Lailat ul Qadr, also called the Night of Power is one of the most coveted nights of the Islamic Year. It is one of the last 10 odd nights in the month of Ramadan and is full of blessings. It pleases Allah (SWT) to see the Muslims fast during the month to please Him. This month of Ibadah ends with the Muslim festival of Eid ul Fitr.
Nightly prayers (Tarawih)
Tarawih are the extra prayers some Muslim communities perform at night after Isha prayers in the Islamic month of Ramadan. They are not mandatory prayers but still of utmost importance.
Zakat is another pillar of Islam and giving charity becomes even more important during Ramadan. It is a way to purify wealth for the will of Allah (SWT) and payable on assets owned over one lunar year. The collected zakat is required to be given to the poor and deserving people. In Ramadan, all good deeds are rewarded more than any other month, and this is why many people choose to give zakat (Sadqa) to the poor.
Itikaf means to be in isolation in a masjid (home) with the intention of solely dedicating one’s time to the worship of Allah (SWT). It is Sunnat-al-Muaqidah (Sunnah that is urged to be performed) to sit in itikaf in the last 10 days of Ramadan. A person may commence itikaf after sunset of 20th of Ramadan, and end it when the moon for Eid is sighted.