IT’S amazing how many emotions the mere mention of this month evokes. It brings with it a unique sense of happiness, togetherness, nostalgia, tranquility and unity with the Ummah.
It brings a renewed spirit of struggle against the flesh and the nafs, against the pleasures of unchecked consumption and mindless gratification.
Most of all, it brings an opportunity to reload our spiritual batteries, refresh our intentions and re-evaluate ourselves on the scale of ihsan, a time when we reset our internal GPS from pleasing people to pleasing our Creator.
It is a valuable time of the year for all Muslims, more so for us at Muslim Ink, as a fledgling magazine flexing its wings before taking to the skies, In-sha Allah.
WHEN winds become soft and gentle, when sunshine changes from heat to warmth… when rain is more cooling than ever before… when clouds move calmly dressed in peaceful white… when the rustling of trees is like a familiar chanting… when whispers of prayer fill the earth, when mountains stand motionless echoing Divine praise… when a lull of serenity lingers in the air and Mercy embraces the earth, the Awaited Beloved graces us: Ramadan—the season of change.
To disrupt this beauty would be ever unwise,
With our human faults, sins and lies
How perfect if we were to harmonize,
With the rest of nature when Ramadan arrives!
It trades perfumes of forgiveness if you repent from vice
And sweetness of faith for restrained eyes.
A breath better than the smell of musk,
For fasting sincerely from dawn to dusk
Museum of Islamic Art set against a beautiful skyline in Doha, Qatar.
WITH the advent of Ramadan in Qatar, the working hours are reduced, which makes the streets, shopping malls, markets and entertainment centers quite crowded. Qatari women purchase and store special spices for this month, prepare milk and rice, and produce clarified butter from the milk of cows and sheep, which they distribute to their friends, family and neighbors.
Qatar lodges millions of residents from various Arab and Muslim countries, who try to replicate the distinctive customs and traditions of their homelands in the month of Ramadan. Qatari citizens, on the other hand, revive their age-old traditions and customs.
Another distinguishing feature of Ramadan in Qatar is the sound of cannons being fired to indicate the time for breaking the fast. However, the profession of Al-Musahhir (the man who used to wake up people to eat Suhoor before daybreak) has completely vanished.
EVERY year during the month of Ramadan, the Geylang Serai (Malay Village, a replica of traditional Malay houses of olden times) comes alive with street bazaars after Taraaweeh prayers. Most of the Muslims live or gather here so it is always filled with large crowds. The street bazaars and night market are called ‘pasar malam’ and are filled with people selling festive items. You can buy new carpets, clothes, bags, nasheed CDs and general household items.
A wide variety of food is also sold at the bazaar. This includes kueh -mueh (Malay cakes and pastries), otah-otah (grilled fish paste in banana leaves), cakes, buns, breads, curry, noodles and delicious curry puff pastries. During the night, the whole place is lit up with glittering lights and decorations, giving the area its much-cherished ethnic flavor.
SWEDEN is just one of the Scandinavian countries where Islam is thriving and spreading at a fast pace. Although Islam is new there in comparison to countries like France, where the Muslim Arabs emigrated a century ago, it has become the second largest religion after Christianity. Swedish laws grant Muslims complete freedom of religion to perform their religious obligations.
IN America as well as other non-Muslim countries, the mosque performs a different function than it does in Muslim countries. It is more than a place for prayer and the Friday sermon; the Islamic center is the hub of the entire Muslim community. It is a meeting point for friends and the center of the excitement during Ramadan. Thus, many break their fast in the mosque rather than at home.
The last few years have been tense years for Muslims living in America trying to clarify what Islam teaches and defining their place in a foreign land. Ramadan is a time for reaching out to non-Muslims in an act of Da’wah (calling to Islam), perhaps inviting non-Muslims to join in their Iftar or contacting the media for positive coverage on the month.
MASJIDS in the Balkans witness great crowds in the days of Ramadan as Muslims visit them from everywhere whether they are used to praying or usually abandon prayers. Yards and playgrounds, like the commercial hub in the middle of Sarajevo, witness a great number of people praying.
In Mostar, Muslims pray in thirty-seven different places. The Mufti of Mostar leads the worshippers in prayer in the cultural center of the University of Mostar. In Zvornik, the Mufti of the Eastern province of Bosnia leads people in prayer in the largest Masjid in the region.
THE excitement starts when people first catch sight of the Ramadan moon. There is a hustle and bustle in the streets deep into the night as people start preparing for the month of fasting by stocking up on essentials. The men head to the mosques for Taraweeh prayers, while the women start preparing the Suhoor (pre-dawn) meal.
To wake everyone up for Suhoor a man tours the neighborhood before dawn, banging on an empty tin. The noise is loud enough to rouse people. The tin he uses is a cheap replacement for the more traditional drum.
Most Pakistanis prefer something substantial for breakfast, such as paratha (buttery flaky flat bread) eaten with a curried dish of their choice. Jalebis (crisp fried orange spirals soaked in sugar syrup) in milk are also a favorite. Whatever the choice of breakfast, it is always followed by tea.
Food shops and restaurants generally open during Suhoor time then close for the day, only re-opening around at sunset.
THE Muslim community in Germany, estimated at 4 million, celebrates the month of Ramadan like the majority of the Islamic world. In most German cities, there are no apparent signs of the advent of Ramadan. Often, work conditions do not allow people to eat the Iftar meal in congregation during the month of Ramadan, which makes the days in Ramadan similar to other ordinary days in this aspect.
It is difficult to determine the first day of fasting in the absence of a unified decision-making process and most Muslims prepare for Ramadan based on their cultural differences and purchase the necessary materials and foods to prepare the traditional homemade dishes, and decorate houses.