Ramadan, the Islamic sacred month
What is Ramadan
On three occasions every year, the judge of islamic jurisprudence sits up late in his office, awaiting the testimony of expert witnesses, who rush to his office and announce the appearance of the new moon. On the basic of this expert and trusted testimony, the judge proclaims the beginning of Ramadan, Eid al Fitr, and Eid al Adha. These three important occasions have all the excitement and suspense associated with Christmas and the New Year in the Christian world. Ramadan is the month of fasting, during which muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn till the sunset. But to talk of fasting or abstaining from food is to talk only of one aspect of Ramadan, which is primarily a social occasion, that makes itself felt.
Benefits of Ramadan
Observing Ramadan is essentially a religious duty, which every Muslim adult is supposed to perform. In additional to the spiritual ends, fasting has got its social human and medical benefits. Regarding the social and human aspect, the feeling of hunger and thirst by all those who observe Ramadan serves as a strong link that binds the members of society in a subtle, though imperceptible bond. It is moreover, a kind of a personal discipline, whereby the individual trains himself to exercise his will power against such vital needs as those associated with the satisfaction of thirst and hunger. From the health point of view advocates of fasting point to the many cures warranted by fasting. Not to mention the reduction in weight which is made relatively easy.
The social occasion
But this is not what Ramadan means to so many people even those who do not observe it. Ramadan is a social occasion when families visit each other, when many kinds of the choicest of sweets are served, when the housewife enters her husband’s heart though the variety of tasty and delicious dishes she cooks every evening. For in some families, in which the children and father hardly ever sit in table together, owing to the different working time of the members, Ramadan is the time when all the members simply have to sit at table all together, and at sunset. In Ramadan the very routine of daily life assumes a special dimension and a special hue. Its short days and long nights characterize this month. Reference is not made here to the actual clock days and nights. The long days and nights are the social one. In this month one develops a new set of habits. After Ramadan breakfast the day really begins or rather the activities of people acquire a fresh impulse. People come to life again, perform their working duties, seek entertainment, or discharge there social commitments.
Home-coming varies considerably in Ramadan. It's usually after midnight when people think of getting ready to go to bed. Those who make it, and manage to get a short nap, are soon wakened by members of the family, who get up for a quick meal before dawn, this meal being called "Suhur" in Ramadan terminology. This terminology includes other terms such as the "mussahher" (the drum beater). The drum beater walks the streets and the alleys, beating his drum and calling up people to get up for a quick meal, before its too late. For many people, the drum beater is an anachronism, an unnecessary nuisance, when they can depend on their alarm clocks. And if the drum-beater isn't enough, cannons make sure that fasting believers wake up for a meal, or a drink before they begin fasting!. The western fast food restaurants close during Ramadan, while people (Muslims and Christians) go to the traditional restaurants in the old city and around Damascus, for Ramadan breakfast and the Suhur, they don't come only to eat, but even to listen live to bands that plays traditional music and sing religious and traditional songs.
The religios duties
One cannot talk about Ramadan without referring the "Tarawih" prayers which are closely associated with the month of fasting. For in this month, true believers perform their prayers, as muslims are known to do, with special care. Making a point of not missing any of the five prayers: the predawn the noon the after noon, the sunset and the night prayers, and punctually responding to the call of the "muazen" every time the later chants his prayer call. The Tarawih prayers are preformed after the night prayers and constitue the consummation of a day of fasting and devotion. But one can talk of many other aspects of Ramadan and yet feel that there is something missing, something that is on top of the commonly known aspects of Ramadan. Reference is made to the spirit of Ramadan, it’s the spirit of toleration, generosity, kindness; in short it's a spirit of good will which seems to color the give and take of every day in life.
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