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RAMADAN

Ramadan is the ninth month of Ramadan which is observed as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community by the Muslims around the world. The annual observance of Ramadan is considered as one of the five pillars of Islam. This lasts for 29 to 30 days from the sighting of one crescent moon to next. Fasting from sunrise to sunset by all Muslim adults marks the observance of Ramadan apart from those who cannot observe it because of some specific unavoidable reasons. A meal that is consumed before the dawn is referred to as suhur, opening feast in the night is called iftar. People during the month of Ramadan involve themselves in charitable deeds, recitation of the Quran, prayers, and acts to heighten the awareness of God. The spiritual rewards one receives during Ramadan is considered to multiply hence people also refrain themselves from food and drink, tobacco products, sinful behavior, intercourse and much more.


HISTORY OF RAMADAN


It is held by the Muslims that revelation of all the scriptures happened during Ramadan - scrolls of Abraham, Torah, Gospel, Psalms, and Quran were all handed down on during every different Ramadan. Even Muhammed is said to have received his first Quranic revelation on one of the Ramadan days. Muslims were instructed to fast in the second year of Hijra, more of a practice to build the culture of taqwa (the fear of God). It is also pointed out that pre-Islamic Pagans fasted on the 10th day of Muharram to appease sin and avoid drought


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IMPORTANT DATES

The Islamic Calendar decides the first and last day of the Ramadan. Plus 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th night of Ramadan are also one of the most important dates of Ramadan. The beginning of Ramadan is marked by direct visual observation of the crescent by many, while other Muslims usually estimate the beginning. Hilal as it is popularly known, crescent moon ideally occurs one day after the new moon


• Laylat al- Qaudr is considered as the holiest of nights during Ramadan which is believed to have occurred on an odd-numbered night among the last ten days of Ramadan.


• Main Eid al Fitrnow this is the most celebrated and important festival for the Muslims, it marks the end of Ramadan month and beginning of the next month Shawwal, which is declared after sighting of a crescent new moon. This is usually a celebration of the return of a more natural disposition of eating, drinking, and other merry affairs.


RELIGIOUS PRACTICES

Muslims practice more praying, acts of charity, self-discipline motivated by hadith. It is said that during Ramadan the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up with the devils chained.


• Fasting

Expectations from Muslims during this period is to put in more effort into following the Islamic teachings. The fasting begins at dawn and ends at sunset, they are abstained from eating drinking or having any kind of sexual relationships and other sinful speech and behaviors. The main purpose of fasting is to redirect the heart from worldly activities and to cleanse the soul from freeing it of impurities. It is also believed that Ramadan teaches practice self-discipline, self-control, empathy and sacrifice for those who are less fortunate along with encouragement for charitable and generous actions There are certain exemptions from fasting and if missed in between can also be made up later. These exemptions include- travel, menstruation, severe illness, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.


• Suhoor

Pre-fast meal that is had every day before dawn is called Suhoor. This is followed by the first prayer of the day, Fajr.


• Iftar

This is referred to as the breaking of fast which is at the sunset and usually done with eating dates to commemorate Muhammad's practice of breaking the fast with three dates. It is a common practice of having social gatherings quite frequently at Iftar. Traditional desserts and dishes are prepared during Ramadan with beverages like milk or juices. The main dishes include lamb stewed with wheat berries, roasted chicken served with chickpea-studded rice pilaf, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables. Desserts may include kunefah, luqaimat, baklava.


• Zakat

This is an obligatory practice as one of the five pillars of Islam to give a fixed percentage of 2.5% of your income to the poor, as the "the poor-rate" which is translated to Zakat. Muslims usually involve in donating a large portion or even all of the yearly zakat during this month as it is believed that good deeds are rewarded more generously during Ramadan.


• Nightly Prayers

Contrary to the popular belief that they are not mandatory is performing of extra nightly prayers called Tarawih which is performed during the months of Ramadan.


• Recitation of the Quran

Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran comprising of 30 sections called Juz over 30 days of Ramadan. Some Muslims recite one juz each on 30 tarawih sessions.


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CULTURAL PRACTICES

• Islamic countries like Dubai decorate the entire streets, cities and towns across the country. A ritual famously known as Padusan is followed on the island of Java by many believers who bathe in holy springs to prepare for fasting. The city of Semarang marks the beginning of Ramadan with a grand carnival which includes parades of a horse-dragon hybrid creature known as Warakngendog that is inspired by the Burqa. This city is also known to prepare foods popular during Ramadan such as large beef or buffalo in Aceh and snails. The Iftar meal is announced every evening by striking a giant drum in the mosque. In Jakarta which is influenced by the Chinese lifestyle, firecrackers are used widely to mark the celebrations of Ramadan. End of Ramadan is marked by a bonus pay known as TunjanganHari Raya.


• Commonly used phrases during Ramadan include Ramadan Mubarak and Ramadan Kareem In the Middle East and Southeast Asia, drum beats are used to wake people up for their suhoor meal.


• There are also benefits of fasting during Ramadan which have been proved by various research and journals. These are Psycho-social behavior and health studies. One of the basic objectives of this month-long process of fasting mold the pattern and behaviors of life. This impact of purification is also expected to last for the remaining month of the year.


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Psychological effects of Ramadan fasting-

The holy Quran is a source of guidance and nothing mentioned in it is without an objective. Fasting is believed to promote morality and humanity, the outburst of uncontrolled desires. They show compassion and generosity to others control their anger and increase patience. Since there is an extra prayer during the month of Ramadan that is observed it helps in energy output and extra calorie utilization. Reciting Quran not only brings peace and spiritual power to mind and heart, it also improves memory. Muslims express a feeling of inner peace and tranquility, exercising personal discipline, sharpen awareness of god, strengthen self-control. It also involves maintaining a divine state of mind to develop positive feelings.


Social Effects of Ramadan fasting


This gives out a message of equality among society and individuals. Concept of neighborhood and benefit from the charity are brought in the limelight. Ramadan also brings out social significance apart from achieving purity of body and soul through this process of self-purification. Those who are under the influence of habits of consuming alcohol or smoking can use these months of abstinence from all these to get rid of the habit and continue to keep up the self-control towards them. Ramadan has been used as an effective model to quit cigarette smoking especially among Africans and Asians in the US. This has been made obligatory so that the rich and the poor can remain equal, rich will experience hunger which will make them understand the need of the poor and thus involve in charity wholeheartedly.


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Health Benefits of Ramadan fasting

Even though the primary purpose of fasting by the Muslims is not for health, there are many benefits of fasting during Ramadan. Eating dates to break the fast is rich in fiber, high levels of potassium, magnesium and B vitamins making it one of the healthier fruits. It will help you ditch your bad habits, boost your brain, Ramadan fasting acts as a great detox for the body, the body will cleanse its digestive system thus leaving a blank slate behind to lead a healthy lifestyle further.


The physiological effect of fasting includes lowering of blood sugar, cholesterol. This fasting would be an ideal treatment of mild to moderate, non-insulin and stable diabetes, hypertension and obesity.


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