By Dejlah Mezeel, Iraq (written for ELBP Newsletter, May 2022)
Ramadan is the holy month in the lunar based Islamic calendar, it’s the ninth month. During Ramadan all Muslims should abstain from eating, drinking, even water, smoking and sexual activities which means nothing should enter the body through the mouth from dawn (Fajr) to sunset (Maghrib). Hearing the call to prayer (Adhan Al Fajr) marks the beginning of the fast and the sunset prayer (Adhan Al Maghrib) announces the ending. Fasting Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, which are the profession of faith (shahada), prayer (salah), alms giving (zaka), fasting (sawm) and pilgrimage (hajj).
Fasting is considered an act of deeply personal worship in which Muslims seek to be closer to God, refrain from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, and gossip and try to get along with each other, even more so than normal. During the last ten days of Ramadan there is an important event called Night Of Decree (Laylat Al Qadr). It celebrates the night when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the prophet Muhammed. According to many Muslim sources, its exact date is uncertain, but it should be on one of the odd numbered nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. Since that time, Muslims believe that Laylat Al Qader comes with the blessing and mercy of God, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted. Although fasting helps the body to be healthy, it is not obligatory for many groups who have health problems, or pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases.
After Ramadan ends all Muslims celebrate the Festival of Breaking the Fast ( Eid al Fiter), which falls on the first day of Shawwal in the Islamic calendar; this does not always fall on the same Gregorian day. Eid Al Fiter has a particular prayer (Salat al Eid), which is generally performed in an open field or large hall. It lasts for three days (or one week), in all Islamic countries. During these days relatives and neighbors exchange gifts and make charitable donations.