Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ramadan Mubarak 2007

Ramadan in 2007 was start last Thursday, the 13th of September and will continue for 30 days and expected to end on the 12th of October. However, as the date depends on the sighting of the moon, it is possible that one day either side of these dates might also be an Eid day.

Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان, Ramaḍān) is an Islamic religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when the Qur'an was revealed. The name "Ramadan" is taken from the name of this month; the word itself derived from an Arabic word for intense heat, scorched ground, and shortness of rations. It is considered the most venerated and blessed month of the Islamic year. Prayers, (sawm) (fasting), charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month.

Ramadan is divided into three ten-day parts, or ashra (Arabic for ten). They are named Rahmah (mercy of God), Maghfirah (forgiveness of God), and Najah (salvation), respectively. Laylat al-Qadr, which falls during the last third, commemorates the revelation of the first verses of the Qur'an and is considered the most holy night of the year. Ramadan ends with the holiday Eid ul-Fitr, on which feasts are held. During the month following Ramadan, called Shawaal, Muslims are encouraged to fast for a further six days.

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, Ramadan migrates through the seasons.
The ill and travellers may substitute other days to perform their Ramadan obligations. Children, the elderly and pregnant women are viewed as excused. Women on their period also make up the days missed, usually in Shawwal.

The most prominent event of this month is the daytime fasting practiced by most observant Muslims. Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world get up before dawn to eat and perform their (fajr) prayer. They break their fast when the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib (sunset), is due.

Prayer and reading of the Qur'an

In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur'an.
Sunni Muslims tend to perform the recitation of the entire Qur'an by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, which are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (‘Juz', which is 1/30 of the Qur'an) is recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Qur'an has been completed. Tarawih is an Arabic phrase referring to those extra prayers. This prayer is performed after salah of Isha'a, but before the Wit'r Rakat. These are done in remembrance of the fact that the revelation of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad was begun during Ramadan.
Muslims also pay Zakaat (Islamic alms giving similar to a tax) during the month. For those who qualify to pay Zakaat, as per the Islamic 'Nisab' (that is those whose wealth exceeds their necessities), have to pay 2.5% of the leftover of their wealth earned in that Islamic calendar year. Although Zakaat can be paid anytime of the year it has to be calculated on a year to year basis and many Muslims use Ramadan as the month for calculation and disbursement.
Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are supposed to slow down from their worldly affairs and focus on self reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment and establish the link between the God almighty and themselves by prayer, supplication, charity and showing good deeds, kindness and helping others.
Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it.
It is a festival time where Muslims buy new clothes, shoes, jewelery, other items of need, prepare special foods, invite people for Iftar (meal and snacks commemorating the breaking of Fast).
In many Muslim and non Muslim countries with large Muslim populations, markets close down in the evening to enable people to perform prayer, Iftar (break fast) and then re-open in the night, and stay open for a good part of night. Muslims can be seen shopping, eating, spending time with their friends and family during the evening hours.

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