Ramadan: The Festival of Lights
Islam is one of the world’s largest religions, with over one billion followers worldwide. Since its humble origins in the Arabian Peninsula, it has spread to every corner of the planet. In Arabic, Islam roughly means “submission” to God, and there is perhaps no better example of this aspect of devotion than the sacrifices a Muslim makes during the month of Ramadan.
Most religions have a time of fasting and reflection on life, and the gift that it is (going without something tends to make the having of it all the sweeter) and Ramadan fasting and adherence is no different. This time of submission and the sacrifice of certain typical comforts (like food) make the having of those things once again worthy of celebration.
This is why Ramadan is not only a time of sacrifice; it is also a time of celebration to Muslims worldwide.
What is Ramadan?
The meaning of Ramadan translates literally into ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, which refers to a strong heat or dryness, and it is a celebration of the first revelation of the Quran. Celebrated throughout the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Since it is on a different calendar, the actual start and finish dates of the holiday change every year. Because of this, the month of Ramadan will eventually fall across every season of the modern calendar.
Muslims are required to fast every day of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset. If you live in an area with wonky timetables (like Alaska), you typically adhere to either the times of the nearest location with regular sunlight hours or to the timetables of Mecca itself.
How do I celebrate Ramadan?
The main aspects of Ramadan revolve around refraining from bad behaviors (smoking, fighting, etc.) and trying to maximize your amount of good behaviors (prayer, charity, etc.).
Within the month there are also special days of note such as Aylat Al-Qadr, or the “Night of Power”. Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr, which involves three days of feasting and great celebration. The end of Ramadan has even been celebrated in the White House on multiple occasions. Gifts are often exchanged during this festival.
The pre-fast meal of Suhur and the post-fast meal of Iftar become mini moments of celebration and ritual themselves. Foods such as dates are a favorite with which to break the fast, and many meals are held in a communal setting. All Muslims above the age of puberty, unless sick, pregnant or elderly, are required to adhere to the fasting traditions.
As with any large celebration or event commemorated by large groups of people, decorations become something to note. Lanterns are a common theme that dates back many years. They symbolize the lighting of the mosques at night when the community gathers together. Stars and Crescents, the symbols of Islam, are also favorite themes for a good many types of decorations ranging from paper cutouts to wooden wreaths.
Since Islam has taken hold in many diverse cultures, there are many different ways in which to beautify the homes and communities. In Jakarta, the Asian culture has created a use of dragon-like creatures and firecrackers.
Ramadan fasting may be one of the more well-known facets of the holiday, but this seems only to heighten the excitement around the food – once it is available. Lamb, chicken, chickpeas and a dessert are typical in an Iftar meal. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also commonplace. There is a large assortment of great Ramadan meals ideas.
Once the bedug is struck (a giant drum in the mosque), the evening meals may begin to take place. Foods like Fattoush, Ful medammes, Dahi vadey, Halwa puri or Falooda Kulfi are popular in certain regions, and in Jakarta snails are particular delicacy.
Thinking of fasting? Learn more with ‘Fasting Foods Of India’ by Mona Verma on Geeker.
Ramadan Rules and Regulations
The Ramadan timetable can roughly be explained as one of normal activities (minus the fasting and large evening meal) but with a heightened sense of prayer and reading of the Quran. Muslims will wake up, pray and eat their pre-sunrise meal. They will then go about their business of the day before coming together for the evening meal. They will break the fast by drinking water and eating and then will conduct the extra nightly prayers.
The most important rules stick with the lack of smoking, sex, drinking and eating during sunlight – and the recognition of religious ceremony and adherence.
“Ramadan Mubarak” (have a blessed Ramadan)!