Ramadan 2020: History, significance and when does Ramadan begin
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims. It is one of the most important observances for the Muslim community. During the period of Ramadan, that extends between 29-30 days, believers spend their time fasting, praying, giving back to the community and introspecting. According to Islam, Ramadan celebrates the first time when the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad and is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The five pillars are Shahada (profession of faith), Salat (Prayer), Zakat (Almsgiving), Sawm (Fasting) and Hajj (Pilgrimage).
Ramadan will start anytime between the evenings of April 23-24, 2020 and end between May 23-24, depending on the sighting of the crescent moon. The date for Ramadan changes yearly because the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle. Only after the crescent moon has been seen does the holy month begin. The Association of Islamic Charitable Projects says that crescent of Ramadan should be observed post the sunset of the 29th day of Sha’ban (the month preceding Ramadan). In case the moon is not sighted, Ramadan shall start 30 days after Sha’ban.
The word Ramadan is derived from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, which means ‘scorching heat.’ Ramadan takes place for 720 hours, which is four weeks and two days. During the period of Ramadan, Muslims fast between dawn and sunset.
It is compulsory for adult Muslims to fast, barring a few exceptions. Those who are seriously ill, travelling somewhere, very old, pregnant, have diabetes or menstruating do not need to take part in the fast, and can compensate later if they feel up to it.
‘Thawab’ is what the spiritual rewards of fasting are known as, and it is believed that these rewards multiply during the period of Ramadan. During this period, Muslims stay away from food and drink, smoking, sexual activities and any sinful behaviour, and instead focus more on prayer, self-reform, charity and taqwa, which is heightened awareness of Allah. Suhoor, or sehri, is the predawn meal is referred to as suhur, before the call for the morning pray, Fajr, and iftar is the nightly feast that breaks the fast after the evening prayer, Maghrib.
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Once the call to Maghrib or evening prayer is heard, a small prayer is said by Muslims who break their fast with water and dates. Post this, they pray Maghrib salat and break their fast with a lavish feast.
When Ramadan starts, Muslims begin praying day and night and fast during the day. They believe that when Ramadan arrives, the gates of Jannah (Paradise) are opened and the gates of Jahannum (hell) are locked up and devils are put in chains.
Special evening prayers called taraweeh are held during which portions from the Quran are recited. During the end of Ramadan, intense prayers take place during the Laylatul Qadr or the Night of Power, which is believed to be the holiest night of the year.
It generally falls on the 27th day of Ramadan and is a commemoration of the night when the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhamad. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid-ul-Fitr. Shawwal is the starting of the next month, and translated it means, ‘festival of breaking of the fast.’ All over the world, Eid is celebrated by Muslims with a lot of enthusiasm, where people buy new clothes and visit their friends and relatives. Food items such as biryani and kebabs are cooked and deserts like sevaiyan are cooked in milk, nuts and spices. Muslims adorn their houses with lights and decorate it to bid goodbye to the holy month of Ramadan.