Hajj: Millions of Muslims travel to Mecca for annual pilgrimage, pillar of Islam

Huge crowds of people dressed in white inside open-air mosque

Hajj pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Kaaba is the most sacred site in Islam. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

More than a billion Muslims around the world look to the Hajj, each year, as more than 2 million pilgrims travel to Mecca for to fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam.

SUNSET MONDAY, AUGUST 20: Eid Al-Adha, also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, begins and runs through August 21. On the morning of Eid, crowds spill out of mosques, into open fields and in parks around the world, as Muslims celebrate both Ibrahim’s devotion and the miracle that took place on the sacrificial altar. Officially, Eid al-Adha begins after the descent of Mount Arafat by the pilgrims on Hajj in Mecca; Muslims across the globe gather with family and friends and offer prayers in congregation.

Hajj: Hajj is a religious duty that must be undertaken by every adult Muslim at least once in his or her lifetime (if it is manageable physically, mentally and financially); despite the frequently used phrase “religious duty,” Muslims regard Hajj as an experience to be treasured. Muslims believe that the ritual of a pilgrimage to Mecca stretches back centuries before the advent of Islam—to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham)—yet it was the Muslim Prophet Muhammad who cemented the rituals of Hajj, in the seventh century. The uniform method of performing the rituals of Hajj is meant to demonstrate both the solidarity of the Muslim people and their submission to God.

STORIES & TRADITIONS

Islamic tradition tells that in approximately 2000 BCE, Abraham was ordered by God to leave his wife, Hagar, and his son, Ishmael, alone in the desert of Mecca while he traveled to Canaan. After Abraham left, her food and water quickly ran out, so Hagar ran back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times. Exhausted, Hagar laid Ishmael down on the sand and begged God for help. Miraculously, a well sprang up at the baby’s feet, and that well—the Zamzam Well—continues to provide ample water to Hajj pilgrims today.

Later, according to Muslim tradition, Abraham was commanded to build the Kaaba, so that people could perform pilgrimage there. It is believed that the Archangel Gabriel brought the Black Stone from heaven to be attached to the Kaaba; today, the Black Stone marks the beginning and ending point of each circle a pilgrim makes as he circulates the Kaaba during Hajj.

DESTINATION: MECCA

Muslims describe the era of pre-Islamic Arabia as jahiliyyah, a time of what Muslims regard as barbaric practices when the Kaaba had become surrounded by pagan idols. To cleanse the Kaaba, the Prophet Muhammad led his followers from Medina to Mecca in what is now regarded as the first Hajj. The pagan idols were destroyed, and Muhammad rededicated the Kaaba to God. At this point, Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam, and adherents have been making the journey ever since. While on Hajj, men and women are permitted to perform the rituals side-by-side as a reminder that they will also stand together on Judgment Day.

RITUALS OF HAJJ

Prior to the start of Hajj, pilgrims go to the entry station where they bathe, don special clothing and make a statement of intent. The first ritual of Hajj is performed inside the Grand Mosque complex: pilgrims circle the Kaaba structure seven times, counterclockwise, reciting prayers (tawaf). Following tawaf, many drink from the Zamzam well. Next, Muslims walk rapidly between the hills of Sara and Marwa seven times, as Hagar did. Another statement of intent is made, after which the faithful travel through Mina, and on to the plains of Mount Arafat.

Intense prayer for forgiveness is offered at Arafat, as Muhammad said, “Far more people are freed from the Hellfire on the Day of Arafat than on any other day.” This portion of the Hajj journey is one of the most important. Small stones are gathered, and the following day, pilgrims perform a symbolic “stoning of the devil” at Mina.

Muslims the world over celebrate Eid al-Adha. Pilgrims return to Mecca to repeat Tawaf, crossing Sara and Marwa, performing additional symbolic stonings and circulating the Kaaba one final time, to do a farewell tawaf.

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Laylat al Qadr and Eid al-Fitr: Muslims observe holiest night, end of Ramadan

Group of Muslims kneeling in prayer, daytime, outdoors

Muslims in Iran holding Eid al-Fitr prayer. Photo by M. Hasan Miremadi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET SUNDAY, JUNE 10 and SUNSET THURSDAY, JUNE 14: The holiest night of the Islamic year arrives for Muslims worldwide with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. (Note: Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred, though the 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date; however, as many of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan as possible are still observed.)

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.” Sins are forgiven and blessings are manifold.

Mosque lit up at night, people walking out of mosque and nearby

Photo by Sharonang, courtesy of pixabay

I’TIKAF & THE FINAL DAYS OF RAMADAN

Muslims who can afford to spend the final 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque may choose to observe a form of worship known as I’tikaf. A fast observed during the day is supplemented with intense prayer and Quran study both day and night. Nighttime meals are provided by most mosques to I’tikaf participants. Ten days of observance is ideal, but some participants follow the practice for shorter periods. Both men and women are encouraged to observe I’tikaf.

Note: Due to traditional moon sighting calculations, Muslim observances often vary by country or region.

THE END OF RAMADAN: HAPPY EID!

Sunrise-to-sunset fasting through some of the year’s longest, hottest days has ended for the world’s Muslims, and the Islamic community transitions from the month of Ramadan to Shawwaal with a joyous “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” called Eid al-Fitr. Islamic days start at sunset, and for 2018, official astronomers have predicted that sunrise on June 14 will open Eid al-Fitr.

Note: Spellings vary, and you may see the holiday spelled Eid ul-Fitr as well. The proper greeting for this festival is “Eid Sa’id!” (Happy Eid!)

For the grand holiday, Muslims around the world awaken early, heading to a nearby mosque (or, in some cases, an open square or field) and praying in unison, before feasting with families and friends. Government buildings, schools and businesses close in Muslim countries as everyone visits family and friends, dines on sweet treats and greets passersby with a “Happy Eid.” In many regions, festivities will continue for three days or more.

Did you know? The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE. 

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed before heading to a nearby mosque, hall or open area. Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed, and adherents spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends, attending carnivals and fireworks displays, giving gifts and expressing thanks to Allah.

From ground, rides at a fair

Eid al-Fitr fairs and festivals, such as this one in Amsterdam, are common. Photo by Charles Roffey, courtesy of Flickr

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast and Bajram, to name just a few.

EID AROUND THE WORLD

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, countries around the world are preparing their banks, airlines, shops, business hours and public services for the major holiday. Unlike most Muslim holidays, which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year, the two Eid holidays—Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr—are always commemorated universally.

Did you know? In Egypt, Eid al-Fitr is an occasion for neighborhood carnivals; in Asia, the celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles and dried fruit; in Saudi Arabia, wealthy families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

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Ramadan: Muslims worldwide embrace month of fasting and prayer

“O ye who believe! (The) Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.”

-The Quran

Mosque lit at night with people gathered

Muslims gather for a Quran reading during Ramadan in Iran. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET TUESDAY, MAY 15: The crescent moon shines in the night sky as Ramadan 2018 begins for Muslims around the globe, ushering in a month of daytime fasting, intense prayer and shared nighttime meals. Though an official moon sighting—and start date of Ramadan—is announced from Saudi Arabia, localized moon sightings may still vary slightly by region. (Learn more here about the crescent moon sighting, vital to the start of Ramadan, from the website of the main North American council of Islamic scholars.)

As the Islamic calendar is lunar, the beginning and end of Ramadan is based on a crescent moon sighting that is typically visible 1-2 days after the astronomical new moon. The end of Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—is met with Eid al-Fitr, a festival of the breaking of the fast. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal, and is a time of great feasting and family celebrations.

Quran and blue prayer beads

Photo courtesy of Pxhere

RAMADAN: MUHAMMAD AND THE QURAN

Of every month in the calendar, Muslims hold Ramadan to be the most favorable for the revelations of God to humankind. Specifically, Ramadan recalls the month when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Because the Quran was given to the Prophet during this month, Muslims usually spend more time with the Quran—often visiting mosques and other Muslim centers where the entire Quran will be recited aloud during the course of the month.

During this special month, devotees also gain a better understanding of the conditions surrounding those less fortunate around the world, and charitable works skyrocket during Ramadan.

FASTING (AND THE IFTAR)

Tradition states that God not only suggested fasting, but demanded it for those physically and mentally able. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, all able Muslims are required to refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours in the hopes that they will gain a closer relationship with Allah.

A fast-breaking meal known as Iftar replenishes the body’s food stores after a long day: the meal starts with dates, in the practice of Muhammad himself, followed by a feast prepared for family and friends. (Check out this site for healthy, authentic meal ideas that utilize all five food groups.)

During the night, Muslim countries are alight and alive with lanterns in houses and mosques, lights in public squares and joy all around.

NEWS 2018: RAMADAN TREES, HALAL LIPSTICK AND #THELEASTWECANDO

Lanterns lit in public area at night

In Qatar’s Cultural Village, lanterns in the shape of its dovecotes shine during Ramadan. Photo by Omar Chatriwala, courtesy of Flickr

Ramadan trees: A woman near Detroit wanted to make Ramadan seem more celebratory for her children, reports the Detroit Free Press, so she reshaped a Christmas tree into a crescent, added a hanging star—and today, has a wait-list of customers wanting her “Ramadan trees.” Read the story here.

Popular phrases and etiquette: From Dubai, reports are available for 2018: Popular Arabic phrases, etiquette tips, healthy fasting suggestions and a Ramadan 2018 general guide.

Europe’s Ramadan economy: From Ramadan fashion to a countdown calendar and halal lipstick, the Guardian reports on the retail trends expected across Europe for the Muslim holy month during 2018.

From Qatar, #TheLeastWeCanDo: Upward of 500 food and non-food items have lower prices for Ramadan 2018, in accordance with a price list issued by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC). The initiative is a part of a Ramadan initiative launched by the Ministry under the theme #AqalMinAlWajeb, Arabic of #TheLeastWeCanDo.” (Read the story here.)

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Eid al-Adha: Joyous Muslim holiday brings visits, vacations

Lots of people in group in front of buildings, Muslim dress

Eid prayers in Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET THURSDAY, AUGUST 31: Muslims worldwide express joyful appreciation for Ibrahim (Abraham) and his complete willingness to make a sacrifice during Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. (Note: Dates and spellings vary.) On the morning of Eid, crowds spill out of mosques, into open fields and in parks around the world, as Muslims celebrate both Ibrahim’s devotion and the miracle that took place on the sacrificial altar. Officially, Eid al-Adha begins after the descent of Mount Arafat by the pilgrims on Hajj in Mecca; Muslims across the globe gather with family and friends and offer prayers in congregation.

NEWS 2017: Saudi Arabia recently announced that Eid al-Adha 2017 will begin on September 1 (the evening of August 31). This year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declared a 16-day holiday for the festival of Eid al-Adha; in Turkey, the holiday period will last 10 days.

IBRAHIM, ISHMAEL AND THE MIRACLE AT THE ALTAR

Two joyous religious holidays are observed by all Muslims each year: Eid al-Fitr, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha.

On the morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims dress in their finest clothing and offer prayers in congregation. Following prayers, adherents exchange joyous greetings and give gifts (Eidi) to children. Visits are made, and even non-Muslims are invited to take part in the feasts and festivities.

sweets platter of cookies

Cookies prepared for Eid al-Adha in Israel. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

According to Muslim tradition, when Ibrahim lowered his arm to slaughter his son, the Archangel Gabriel placed a ram on the altar in place of Ishmael. In commemoration, Muslims sacrifice an animal on Eid al-Adha, keeping one-third of the share; giving one-third to relatives and neighbors; and donating the remaining one-third to the poor.

THE ‘GREATER EID’                

Sometimes called the Greater Eid (the Lesser Eid, Eid ul-Fitr, occurs at the end of Ramadan), Eid al-Adha calls able Muslims to sacrifice a halal animal. By sharing, it is ensured that even the most impoverished person may celebrate Eid. The animal sacrifice—which must meet specific age and quality requirements—may be performed anytime before sunset on the final day of Eid. Families that do not own an animal to slaughter contribute to a charity that will provide meat for the needy.

It is Islamic custom to exchange joyful greetings, present gifts to children and visit with family and friends during this joyous time. The events of Eid al-Adha last between one and four days, although in some regions, festivities carry on much longer.

EID AL-ADHA 2017

Tourist attractions appeal to millions of travelers: Travel peaks during the Eid al-Adha holiday period, and destinations offering packages are plentiful: a Dubai-based agency has launched five new holiday packages for Eid al-Adha; travel site Skyscanner lists the 10 most popular European cities for Eid travelers; Khaleej Times has listed Eid staycation ideas for those in the UAE.

India campaign discourages Eid cow sacrifice: Muslims in Hyderabad have appealed to other Indian Muslims to not sacrifice cows and bulls for Eid al-Adha, in respect for neighboring Hindus. (Read more at One India.) A countrywide campaign was launched for the cause, and according to reports, the Islamic seminary’s fatwa department has ruled that Islam does not sanction hurting the views or opinions of neighbors with other beliefs. In India, Eid al-Adha 2017 will begin in the evening of September 1.

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Hajj 2017: Millions of Muslims enter Mecca for annual pilgrimage

Overview of Grand Mosque, Hajj, millions of pilgrims

The Grand Mosque and its surrounding areas fill with millions of pilgrims during Hajj. Photo by Menj, courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30: Mecca is the destination for millions of Muslim pilgrims partaking in the annual pilgrimage: by every mode of transportation available and from countries that span the globe, adherents are arriving for Hajj 2017, the annual Islamic pilgrimage that is widely considered the largest annual gathering in the world. Note: Dates can vary depending on moon sightings.

NEWS UPDATES: Pilgrims began pouring into Mecca in mid-August. Nigeria and Ghana sent some of the first pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, and while some hiccups are causing worry – such as the 2,201 pilgrims from Bauchi who have not yet been able to depart – publications also report the addressing of various issues, such as the conflict between Qatari and Saudi authorities over various Hajj aspects.

Pilgrims and their families and friends worldwide can access Hajj news, live broadcasts, lists of embassies and Hajj service providers via the Hajj App, which was released just days before the official start of Hajj 2017. Launched by Arab News and endorsed by the Muslim World League, the Hajj App is free for users and also will feature a “pilgrim tracker,” through which location can be shared and pilgrims’ family and friends can follow them in real time.

The Hajj is one of the “five pillars of Islam.” In fact, the pilgrimage is regarded as a religious duty that must be undertaken by every adult Muslim at least once in his or her lifetime—if that person has the mental, physical and financial ability to make the long journey. Despite that word “duty,” Muslims regard Hajj as an experience to be treasured. The ritual of a pilgrimage to Mecca stretches back centuries before the advent of Islam—to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham)—yet it was the Islamic prophet Muhammad who cemented the rituals of Hajj in the seventh century. (Learn more, and get news updates, from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.) The uniform method of performing the rituals of Hajj is meant to demonstrate both the solidarity of the Muslim people and their submission to Allah (God).

THE ORIGINS OF HAJJ: ABRAHAM, HAGAR & THE BLACK STONE

Islamic tradition tells that in approximately 2000 BCE, Abraham was ordered by God to leave his wife, Hagar, and his son, Ishmael, in the desert of Mecca while he traveled to Canaan. After Abraham left, food and water quickly ran out; Hagar ran back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times. Exhausted, Hagar laid Ishmael on the sand and begged God for help. Miraculously, a well sprang up at the baby’s feet, and that well—the Zamzam Well—continues to provide ample water to Hajj pilgrims today. Later, according to Muslim tradition, Abraham was commanded to build the Kaaba, so that people could perform pilgrimage there. It is believed that the Archangel Gabriel brought the Black Stone from heaven to be attached to the Kaaba, and today, the Black Stone marks the beginning and ending point of each circle a pilgrim makes as he circulates the Kaaba during Hajj.

JAHILIYYAH: MUHAMMAD REDEDICATES THE KAABA

During a time known as jahiliyyah in pre-Islamic Arabia, the Kaaba had become surrounded by pagan idols. To cleanse the Kaaba, the Prophet Muhammad led his followers from Medina to Mecca in what is now regarded as the first Hajj. The pagan idols were destroyed, and Muhammad rededicated the Kaaba to God. At this point, Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam, and adherents have been making the journey ever since.

PILGRIMAGE RITUALS:
THE GRAND MOSQUE, MOUNT ARAFAT AND THE ZAMZAM WELL

Before the start of Hajj, pilgrims bathe, don special clothing and make a statement of intent at the entry station. The first ritual of Hajj is performed inside the Grand Mosque complex: pilgrims circle the Kaaba structure seven times, counterclockwise, reciting prayers (tawaf). Following tawaf, many drink from the Zamzam well. Next, Muslim pilgrims walk rapidly between the hills of Sara and Marwa seven times, as Hagar did (al-Sai). Another statement of intent is made, after which the faithful travel through Mina, and on to the plains of Mount Arafat.

Intense prayer for forgiveness is offered at Arafat, as Muhammad said, “Far more people are freed from the Hellfire on the Day of Arafat than on any other day.” This portion of the Hajj journey is one of the most important. Small stones are gathered, and the following day, pilgrims perform a symbolic “stoning of the devil” at Mina (rami).

Eid al-Adha: Animal sacrifices are performed as Muslims the world over celebrate Eid al-Adha. Male pilgrims on Hajj customarily shave their heads, and all Hajj pilgrims return to Mecca cross Sara and Marwa, perform additional symbolic stonings and circulate the Kaaba one final time, to do a farewell tawaf.

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Eid ul-Fitr: Muslims worldwide joyously mark end of Ramadan

White mosque, blue sky

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

SUNSET SATURDAY, JUNE 24: Ramadan has ended, and Muslims give thanks for the strength to have fasted all month long—and now, it’s time to celebrate! Islamic days start at sunset, and sunrise of June 25 will open Eid ul-Fitr, a grand holiday with Muslims around the world awakening early, heading to a nearby mosque (or, in some cases, an open square or field) and praying in unison, before feasting with families and friends. Government buildings, schools and businesses close in Muslim countries as everyone “heads home” to visit family and friends, dine on sweet treats and wish all passersby a “Blessed Eid.” In some regions, festivities continue for three days.

Note: Muslim festival dates vary globally, and based on early calculations of moon sightings, it’s estimated that Eid ul-Fitr will start one day later in North America, at sunset on June 25. Even within North America, major Muslim centers often schedule more than one day of Eid ul-Fitr prayers to accommodate the faithful who are following slightly different versions of the calendar.

The morning of Eid starts early, with ritual washing, new clothes and a small breakfast, usually of dates. All Muslims, regardless of location, head to Muslim centers for Eid prayer, which must be performed in congregation. Muslims express a unified empathy for the poor and gratefulness to Allah, all the while facing the day with great happiness. A sermon follows, with a supplication asking God’s forgiveness and mercy for all living beings.

Did you know? The length of Eid celebrations varies by country: in Saudi Arabia, events last 23 days! This helpful chart breaks down Eid by country.

Woman dancing Muslim dress

A Muslim woman dances during Eid celebrations in Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo, by Senior Airman Felicia Juenke

Throughout the day, street processions entertain families; services draw visitors to mosques and public parks; large halls are rented for feasts and Muslims invite everyone, even non-Muslims, to partake in the celebratory meals. During this joyous time, parents often give their children small gifts, called Eidi, and relatives save coins to give to children’s Eid-ey-yah, or “allowance,” during the festivities of Eid ul-Fitr. Children often spend Eid-ey-yah on admission to amusement parks, gardens or other public areas.

EID UL-FITR AROUND THE WORLD

How does Eid differ around the world—and how is it the same?

  • In Cape Town, South Africa, many like to gather at Green Point for the moon sighting that will signal the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid. Every attendee brings a dish to pass at the shared meal for breaking the final fast day of Ramadan.
  • In Asia, women and girls apply mehndi, or henna, on their hands and feet. After Eid prayers, some families visit graveyards to pray for the salvation of deceased family members. A common celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles, milk and dried fruit.
  • In Saudi Arabia, hospitality comes first as shopkeepers hand out free gifts; strangers distribute gifts to children at random; well-off families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

NEWS: Saudi Arabia will reportedly extend the Eid holiday by one week this year. In recent years, government employees were given a 10-day break for Eid. Worldwide, many Muslims take vacations during this celebratory time. (Read the story at U.S. News & World Report.)

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Ramadan: Muslims fast during ‘longest days’ of the calendar year

Woman stands below grand ceiling, hands raised, looking at ceiling, in dress and headscarf

A Muslim woman offers a Ramadan prayer. Photo by Thamer Al-Hassan, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET FRIDAY, MAY 26: As a crescent moon appears and is spotted around the globe, the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims—nearly a quarter of Earth’s population—begin the month of Ramadan. (Note: Starting dates in communities around the world may vary by location and by method of calculation.)

Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, the beginning and end of Ramadan is based on a crescent moon sighting that is typically visible 1-2 days after the astronomical new moon. The end of Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—is met with Eid al-Fitr, a festival of the breaking of the fast. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal, and is a time of great feasting and family celebrations. The majority of our readers live in North America—and, this year, the Islamic Society of North America, says the Eid will begin on Sunday June 25.

As Ramadan moves slowly around the Gregorian calendar, 2017 will cover some of the “longest” days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere—which, for observant Muslims, equates to more hours of daytime fasting. This year, Ramadan will incorporate the summer solstice, on June 20—the “longest” day of the year for those living in the North.

A GROWING POPULATION

This spring, the Pew Research Center’s analysis of global religious trends reports that—based on worldwide patterns of childbirth—Islam is likely to emerge as the world’s most rapidly growing religion in the years ahead. You can download the complete report here in PDF format. That Pew report is the source of our reference above to 1.8 billion as the world’s current Muslim population. Christianity remains the world’s largest religion with 2.3 billion adherents, Pew reports.

MORE THAN FASTING …

The Beauty of Ramadan by Najah Bazzy front cover (1)

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Najah Bazzy, author of The Beauty of Ramadanreminds readers in her opening pages that Ramadan is about far more than denial of food and water during daylight hours. Bazzy, a nationally known expert on cross-cultural healthcare, covers many of the health-related issues in her book. But she calls on a traditional text credited to the Prophet Muhammad for the deeper meaning of this special month. In addition to fasting, prayer and Quran study:

Give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respect to your elders. Have pity on those younger than you and be kind toward your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongues against unworthy words, and your eyes from such scenes that are forbidden and your ears from such sounds as should not be heard. Be kind to orphans.

Bazzy’s book explains much more about the rich experience of this month for Muslim families. It also clearly explains a lot about the month’s practices, making the book helpful for educators, anyone in public service and neighbors or co-workers with Muslim friends.

FASTING & IFTAR

Fasting is a tradition in nearly all of the world’s great faiths—but the word “fasting” can refer to many different forms of this ancient tradition. In some traditions, giving up meat or other kinds of foods is a fast. In other groups, a fast may be the elimination of a single meal—or it may refer to avoiding food, but not liquids.

Three dates in wooden bowl

Three dates are traditionally consumed at the end of each day’s fast during Ramadan. Photo courtesy of YouTube

Muslims observe the month of Ramadan with a strict sunrise-to-sunset fast, which means that nothing passes the lips during those hours. All food and drink (including water) is prohibited. Meanwhile, prayer is increased, as is reading from the Quran. According to Muslim belief, the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad occurred during Ramadan, and as such, observance of the month is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Many Muslim communities around the world invite special vocal interpreters of the Quran to come to mosques and chant the sacred text, night after night, until the entire holy book is completed.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims partake in a pre-dawn meal known as the Suhoor, and do not return to eating until after sunset—with the iftar.

Three dates customarily break the fast each day of Ramadan, and an iftar meal is often an occasion for social gatherings, large feasts and buffet-style hosting. Occasionally, Muslims describe the night-time iftar tradition as “like a series of Thanksgiving dinners,” because friends and family often visit each other during the nights of Ramadan—and favorite dishes frequently are prepared for these feasts.

A lantern with colored glass on each side, reflecting colors onto walls around it

A Ramadan lantern. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

ZAKAT GIVING & ‘NIGHT OF POWER’

In addition to fasting, Muslims donate to charity during Ramadan. Charity, known as zakat, sometimes translated as “the poor-rate,” is an obligatory practice.

Laylat al-Qadr, or the “night of power,” is considered the holiest night of the year and commemorates the night the first revelation of the Quran was sent to Muhammad. Around the Islamic world, traditions vary for identifying the date of Laylat al-Qadr—though it is generally believed to fall on one of the odd-numbered nights of the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Do you know Muslim friends, neighbors or co-workers? Michigan State University’s Joe Grimm reports on an easy and friendly way to reach out during Ramadan.

RAMADAN NEWS 2017

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