I was born and raised up in an Arab country. Being in a predominantly Muslim country, one cannot ignore the piousness that accompanies an important religious event like Ramadan. This 30 day fasting period, where all the devout fast from dawn to dusk is one awesome special occasion, especially in an Arab country. The day from morning to evening, wears a tired boring look. But it is in the evening, as the hot Arabian sun sets, when the real fun begins.
Following the ‘iftaar’ prayers, life just….explodes. Shopping malls gets crowded, people get active, parks full, music, dance and all types of festivals adorn the landscape. It is a time of celebration and rejoicing. Add to the mix the cool Arabian breeze that adorns the evening, the majestic feeling that follows is beyond words.
Ramadan used to be a fun experience while growing up. Respecting the limitations of many of the believers, the schools and workplaces worked on much reduced work schedules. This was done to ensure that everyone gets home before the fast is broken and can be with the family to have good and quality family time.
Reminiscing the Ramadan days during my childhood, there are lots of stories worth telling. The local radio stations used to have quality Ramadan programming. There was one program I used to listen to almost every Ramadan. The program was hosted by an Islamic author who used to tell some really awesome stories from the rich Arabian history starting from the wise caliphs and their caliphates, the advancements of the Arabian civilization in science, trade, culture etc. These stories showed how tolerant these rulers were at their time and how they used to treat everyone with fairness and justice. They were also visionaries and how they ensued the prosperity of the Arabic civilisation which at its prime stretched from southern Spain (Andulasia) till modern day China.
Those stories were inspiring and I used to take the time and effort to read the religious books including the holy book of Quran. The stories are so similar to the ones from the Bible and it stresses about respecting and religiously adhering to an all loving, all forgiving and all welcoming living God. Islam stresses on a much disciplined and a reverent approach to divinely matters when compared to its older cousin Christianity.
Ramadan is a very holy and sacred month for Muslims all over the world. Prior to the break of dawn, a meal called Suhoor is taken. Once the fasting begins, the faithful refrain from everything and spend time meditating and reading the Quran. It was also believed that prophet Muhammed wanted the faithful to experience abstinence to understand the life of poor, hungry and needy. The dawn to dusk period is not one of merely abhorring all the comforts of the world, but a period of prayer, discipline and enlightenment.
Zakat is another offering given during Ramadan when a fixed percentage of one’s income is given to the needy. I still remember the tale of a Keralite who went to visit one of his friends, who was then working in one of the rich Arab homes as a security guard. It was the time of Ramadan and he arrived early in the morning. The non believer friend stayed indoors during the day. In the evening, as the fast was being broken, he ventured out of his friend’s home to check out of his surroundings. Unknowingly for him, he was still in his native clothes and forgot to put on his shirt and trousers. As he ventured out of his friend’s tiny house by the gate of the mansion, he was viewed by the guests of the rich Arab who had come to the house earlier to break the fast and partake in the iftaar banquet. On seeing this immigrant in native clothes, they mistakenly took him for a poor and needy person and showered him with enough riches, that he became immensely prosperous in life. There are many stories like these that shows the magnanimity of the holy season.
It is still a challenge to complete the entire fasting requirements for a 30 day period. In places like North America, it is a daunting challenge when Ramadan falls in the lengthy summer months where the days are insanely long (about 18hrs). But such is the belief and faith of many of the believers that they ensure that they complete the entire fast with self control and perseverance.
Ramadan is indeed a holy, sacred and a revered month for millions of Muslims all over the world. It is also a visible reminder to many of the non believers the power of human discipline, perseverance and self control to overcome any challenge posed and using these experiences to instill in oneself a disciplined and enriching life.
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