Ramadan is considered the holiest month in Islam, and is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar year.
And during Ramadan, all Muslims are obliged to fast during the day, starting from before sunrise to just after sunset.
During this time they are not permitted to drink liquids or eat any kind of food. And in some orthodox societies they are also prohibited from showing affection to loved ones, restraining themselves from all worldly things, to seek Allah’s forgiveness, and to show one’s devotion to the religion.
Reason of Fasting in Quran
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, so that you may develop Taqwa (self-restraint), ” from Chapter 2: Verse 183.
Ramadan Guide Lines
When the holy month of Ramadan begins, the people who meet you greet you with "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Ramadan Kareem.” These greetings are used to offer wishes for Ramadan. (“Kareem” means generous and “Mubarak” means blessings).
Sehri or Suhoor is the meal in the morning just before sunrise - it is usually a light meal.
Iftar or Iftari is the time of the evening meal just after sunset, traditionally a light snack of dates and water.
Pakistani Rituals During Ramadan
Pakistan is a Muslim country with more than 98% of its population being Muslim.
In Pakistan, the month of Ramadan is celebrated with numerous prayers and rituals.
Men, especially in the late evening visit mosques, and perform a special prayer that lasts almost two hours. It is called “Taraveeh." Women mostly pray “Taraveeh" at home.
Every morning special foods are served, which are unique to this month. Special breakfasts are prepared, and a large number of people turn to traditional restaurants. “Anda Paratha” (egg and flatbread) “Nihari” (a special dish prepared with beef) and Hareesa (Kashmiri Meat Dish) are a few of the many special dishes prepared especially in Ramadan.
In the evening people prepare refreshing drinks made of rose water, lemonade, and also many different kinds of deep-fried dishes, which are rich in oil and nutrients to energize people for the day long fasting. “Pakora”, “Samosa” and “Jalebi” are some of the favourites.
But many prefer to break their fast with dates, as it is believed to be the favourite food of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Charitable donors give Iftar dinners for people in need of charity. One can see queues of people, lining up outside the homes of the wealthy, who give free food to the needy, to seek Allah’s forgiveness.
Routines During Ramadan
Offices usually open earlier than normal, 8 am in the morning and close at 2.30 pm in the afternoon.
The bazaars open late and usually have a break during the evening prayers, and the long prayers of “Taraveeh, " and they re-open again till ten or even till midnight.
During this month all restaurants and food stalls in the streets are closed during day time. It is prohibited to eat in public, although it is not an enforced law, but people observe this law as a respect, and to avoid criticism.
In big cities this rule is strictly followed, while in villages it is a bit more relaxed and many people also skip the fasts.
An interesting scene that can be observed on the streets, just before breaking the fast is rush driving, people rushing to their homes to break the fast with their families and loved ones.
And right at the time of the evening prayers, life almost stands still. Roads are left deserted.
Youngsters are often seen playing cricket and football on the streets, to kill time, as Iftar nears, and it becomes unbearable to resist thirst and hunger.
Order of fasting in Quran
Generally, if one follows the international media, particularly the western media, it portrays Islam as a very strict religion.
But that is not true…
Here are some citations from the Holy Quran that clarify that Islam is indeed a lenient, tolerant and merciful religion.
“… But whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks.” -Quran- Chapter 2: Verse 185
Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) address on the eve of Ramadan:
“People, a great blessed month has come upon you.
Allah has made fasting during an obligation, and steadfastly observing its nights in worship a voluntary act.
Whoever undertakes an act of obedience to Allah during this month with a righteous deed, it is as if he has performed an obligatory act at other times, and whoever performs an obligatory act during it, is as one who performed seventy obligations at other times. It is the month of patience, and the reward for patience is Paradise. It is the month of goodwill, during which provisions are multiplied.”
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Allah has no need for the hunger and the thirst of the person who do not restrain from telling lies and acting on them even while observing fast.”
“When one of you is fasting, He should abstain from indecent acts and unnecessary talk, and if someone begins an obscene conversation or tries to pick an argument, he should simply tell him, ‘I am fasting.’”
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) proclaimed the reward of fasting:
“Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving ten times it is like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said, “Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.” for the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk.”
The last ten days of this month (from 21st to 30th of Ramdan), Muslims observe the ritual of “Aatikaf,” that means sitting in a mosque in complete isolation from the world and paying complete attention to God. This ritual, “Aatikaf, ” ends with the sighting of the new moon (The Shawal is the tenth month of the Islamic Calendar), followed by celebrations of the “Eid” festival, marking the end of Ramadan.