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BY: Mir Aashu

Muslims around the world anticipate the arrival of the holiest month of the year. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims from all continents unite in a period of fasting and spiritual reflection. Each year, Muslims spend the ninth month of the Islamic calendar observing a community-wide fast. The annual fast of Ramadan is considered one of the five “pillars” of Islam. Muslims who are physically able to are required to fast each day of the entire month, from sunrise to sunset. The evenings are spent enjoying family and community meals, engaging in prayer and spiritual reflection, and reading from the Quran. The fast of Ramadan has both spiritual significance and physical effects. Fasting is considered as the biggest act of religious observance. In addition to the basic requirements of the fast, there are additional and recommended practices that allow people to gain the most benefit from the experience. When the month of Ramadan begins, Muslims enter into a period of discipline and worship, fasting during the day, and praying throughout the day and night.

During Ramadan, special evening prayers are conducted during which long portions of the Quran are recited. These special prayers are known as taraweeh. The word taraweeh comes from an Arabic word which means to rest and relax. The Hadith indicates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) led his followers in evening prayer on the 25th, 27th, and 29th nights of Ramadan, in the time after the isha prayer. Since then, this has been a tradition during the evenings of Ramadan. However, it is not regarded as compulsory, since the Hadith also documents that the Prophet discontinued this prayer because he specifically did not want it to become compulsory. Still, it is a strong tradition among modern Muslims during Ramadan to this day.

During the last ten days of Ramadan, Muslims seek and observe the Night of Power (Leyla al-Qadr). Tradition holds that the Night of Power is when the Angel Gabriel first appeared to the Prophet Muhammad, and the first revelation of the Quran was sent down. The first verses of the Quran to be revealed were the words: “Read! In the name of your Lord…” on a quiet Ramadan evening when the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was thirty years old. Muslims are advised to “seek” the Night of Power during the last ten days of Ramadan, particularly on the odd nights (ie. the 23rd, 25th and 27th). It is reported that the Prophet said: “Whoever stays up (in prayer and remembrance of Allah) on the Night of Power, fully believing (in Allah’s promise of reward) and hoping to seek reward, he shall be forgiven for his past sins.” (Bukhari & Muslim).

Muslims worldwide thus spend these last ten nights of Ramadan in solid devotion, retreating to the mosque to read the Qur’an (i’tikaf ), reciting special supplications (du’a), and reflecting on the meaning of Allah’s message to us. It is believed to be a time of intense spirituality when the believers are surrounded by angels, the gates of heaven are open, and God’s blessings and mercy are abundant.   Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims, but the feelings and lessons experienced carry on throughout the year. In the Quran, Muslims are commanded to fast so that they may “learn self-restraint” .

The conclusion of Ramadan is marked with a major celebration known as Eid al-Fitr (or Eid ul-Fitr), the Feast of Fast-Breaking. It starts the day after Ramadan ends and lasts for three days. Eid al-Fitr includes special prayers and meals with friends and relatives, and gifts are often exchanged. May Allah accept our fasting, forgive our sins, and guide us all to the Straight Path. May Allah bless us all during Ramadan, and throughout the year, with His forgiveness, mercy, and peace, and bring us all closer to Him and to each other.

Writer is law student at Kashmir Law college Srinagar & can be reached at:  [email protected]

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