Amid Covid-19 Ramadan remains a month of sacrifice
Tuesday marked the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, it officially begins with the signing of the new moon.
Muslims use the lunar calendar, which is ten days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, and as such, the date of Ramadan varies from year to year. Having started on April 13 this year, it ends on May 12.
Muslims believe that the first verses of Holy Koran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadan, and they choose to honour this month with a time of reflection and personal sacrifice. Fasting, reflection and charitable giving are among the other spiritual practices that are a part of it.
Fasting, which is called saum, is one of the five pillars of the religion of Islam and considered among the highest forms of Islamic worship. It is observed from sunrise to sunset and it is mandatory for all healthy and able-bodied adult Muslims. Children, seniors and pregnant or breastfeeding women are exempt.
Anyone who participates eats a predawn meal called suhoor, fasts during daylight hours and then breaks their fast in the evening with a meal referred to as iftar. The Holy Koran gives instructions for fasting during Ramadan and also details its purpose: it is an act of worship and a way to draw closer to Allah. This time of fasting is less about the physical experience and more about the spiritual sacrifice it requires.
By abstaining from food and drink during sunlight hours, Muslims begin to sympathise with those around the world who have little to eat each day. Observers also focus on charity and goodwill during the Ramadan period. It’s traditional for Muslims to collect and donate to charities or people in need during the month. This is in alignment with the principle of Zakat – charitable giving – which is another of the five pillars of Islam.
Most of us associate Ramadan with fasting from food only, however the Muslim fast extends far beyond that. During this time Muslims also abstain from negative vices and habits such as swearing, smoking, arguing and lustful or covetous thoughts. This intentional act of physical and spiritual fasting is designed to redirect the heart from worldly things to self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy.
In addition to the self-control developed through Ramadan, this is also a time for spiritual growth. Muslims will recite the Koran and participate in special times of prayer. By fasting from many of the world’s distractions, Ramadan is a time of sincere reflection for its observers. Through increased prayer time and devotion, Muslims connect more closely to Allah and give thanks for all His blessings. The Prophet Muhammad considered this exercise of self-reflection crucial, saying that one hour of contemplation is better than 70 years of worship.
Locally, members of the Muslim community are participating in this religious practice for the next three weeks. Ordinarily observers would gather for prayers at the Masjid throughout the month and come together to break their fast with a celebration of Eid Al- Fitr, or the ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’, which signals the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next month, Shawwal.
The festival can last up to three days in certain cultures. In Bermuda, the Islamic community celebrates this occasion with a Jumuah service, or Friday prayers.
This year families will celebrate among themselves again, as Government regulations have closed places of worship and prohibit large gatherings. There will likely be no services or large feast but the individual prayers for forgiveness, guidance and protection from the Koran will be recited and families will observe this time together in their own “bubbles”.
The overall spiritual purpose of Ramadan is to prevent the body from taking control of the soul. While Ramadan is only one month on the calendar, the spiritual lessons learnt can be applied all year round.
‘O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.’ Holy Koran – Surah Al-Baqarah [2:183]
Anyone interested in learning more about the religion of Islam and the Muslim community here in Bermuda is encouraged to contact the Masjid Muhammed: 292-5986, www.masjidmuhammad.net