On the last day of Shabaan (ie. the eighth month of the Islamic calendar) Muslims the world over go on looking at the moon in the sky to ascertain the Maghrib time, when they should start a month-long fast from dawn till dusk abstaining from several things including food and drink.
Origin of Ramadhan
Ramadhan is the name of the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. In Arabic Ramadhan means intense heat, scorched ground and food scarcity. It is considered the most venerated and blessed month in the Islamic year. Prayers, sawm (fasting), charity and self accountability are prevalent during this month.
Rulings regarding fasting
It is obligatory for the fasting person to confirm his or her intention before the appearance of Fajr. The intention should come from the bottom of the heart. One should make his or her heart intention before going to sleep and should get up early with that intention and start fasting at the dawn of the day.
Time for breaking fast
The time for breakfast is Maghrib or the time of sun set. When one hears the call for Maghrib Prayer or the fourth prayer of the day it is the time to breakfast. The Prophet used to break fast with fresh dates before praying. If fresh dates were not available he would eat some dried dates and if even dried dates were not available he would have a few sips of water.
Feeding the poor
According to Islam, combining fasting with feeding the poor is one of the means of reaching paradise. It is said that there are transparent rooms in Paradise. Allah has prepared them for those who feed the poor, who are gentle in speech, who fast regularly and who pray at night while the other people are asleep.
The Prophet said “Anyone who gives food to a fasting person to break his fast will have a reward equal to his. As narrated by al Bukhaari 6: Muslim 2308 “The messenger of Allah was the most generous during Ramadhan when Angel Jibreel met him. He met him each night and revised the Quran with him. The messenger of Allah was more generous than the blowing of the wind.’’
Zakaat is what is left after meeting one’s necessities from the earnings of the Islamic calendar year. Those who can afford pay year to year basis and can be paid at any time of the year but during the month of Ramadhan.
Ramadan is a period when Muslims slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self reformation, spiritual cleansing and Enlightenment, establishing a link between Almighty God and themselves by prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others.
Since Ramadhan is a special month, Muslims in many parts of the world consume favourite foods during this month. Since Ramadhan emphasizes communality aspects of family members, relatives, friends and well wishers etc. to take dinner together. Some Muslims invite one another to share the evening meal after breakfast. However, some Muslims eat less even during the night, during the Ramadan period due to stomach contraction. Even if they eat less for dinner they experience less fatigue during the day when they engage in fast as they become used to the altered routine soon, before the end of the first week of fasting.
Events of Ramadhan
Two days in the month of Ramadhan are of special significance. One of them is the day on which the Quran’s first verse was revealed at mid night. This night called Laylat-al-Qudr is known only to God and Muhammad. Indication has been made by Muhammad that it is one of the last ten odd nights of the month of Ramadhan. The other occasion for celebration is the ending of the fasting period. Ramadhan fasting period ends on the last day of the month of Ramadhan with the sight of another new moon.
Virtues of fasting
Fasting makes the soul shine. It invigorates and enlivens it from its lethargic state. Excessive eating makes one blind and dark just as excessive water destroys crops. Excessive eating makes a man dull and deprives him of the power of thinking. A hungry belly is, however, a fountain of wisdom. This has been the experience of many pious divines. The practice of fasting creates the taste of prayer. A dull belly can never taste the sweetness of prayer and invocations.
Rewards for fasting
Every action of the son of Adam is rewarded in many ways, each good deed receiving ten times its like up to seven hundred times.
“There is a gate of Paradise called ar-Rayyann. On the day of drinks and closed after the last of them enters it and whoever drinks will never become thirsty (Ibn Khusai mahSaheeh)