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Ramzan


Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Read about why this time is so important to Muslims.


Ramzan or Ramadan, is a period of fasting for Muslims. The name is derived from the name of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The word Ramadan literally means burnt ground or intense heat. This month is considered to be the most holy month of the year in Islam. All followers of Islam are urged to follow the basic rules of fasting, prayer, charity, etc. during this month.

The month of Ramzan is further divided into three parts, consisting of ten days each. Each ten day period is referred to as 'ashra', which is the Arabic word for ten. These three parts are the Rahmah (God's mercy), Maghfirah (God's forgiveness), and Najah (salvation). The period of Ramzan ends with the celebrations on the feast day of Eid-ul-Fitr.


Origins of Fasting during Ramzan

It is believed that God's teachings to the prophet Muhammad took place during the month of Ramzan in the year 610 A.D. These teachings were eventually compiled together and became the Quran, which is the holy book of Islam. As per verse 183 in the second chapter of the Quran, fasting is compulsory. The verse reads as 'O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you, as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self restraint.'

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. A month is considered to have begun from the time when the initial crescent of a new moon is seen. However, a lunar calendar is shorter than the regular solar calendar year of 365 days. The lunar calendar falls short by around eleven or twelve days each year. Due to this discrepancy between the two calendars, the month of Ramzan is advanced by around eleven days each year. This means that the average Muslim will have to fast in both the winter and summer months during the course of his lifetime. This ensures that the hardships faced while fasting are experienced equally by Muslims living in the northern and southern hemispheres.


Significance of Fasting

The holy month of Ramzan is said to offer all Muslims the opportunity to reform themselves and achieve spiritual communion with God. Human beings tend to lose touch with their spiritual selves as they go about their lives. To bring them back to God, Islam prescribes an annual 'roza' or 'siyam', which must be undertaken during the month of Ramzan. This is along the lines of a workshop conducted to refresh a person's religious beliefs as well as inculcate a sense of discipline with respect to temptation by material items.

'Siyam' literally means to refrain from. When applied in the context of Ramzan, it refers to cultivating the capacity for self restraint. Fasting is not only limited to food during Ramzan. Muslims are expected to abstain from food, drink, and sexual activities during the fasting period each day for the entire month of Ramzan. These restrictions are self imposed in order for people to first practice self-control when it comes to minor issues. This in turn helps them to resist greater temptations that they will encounter later on in their lives.


How Fasting helps

Prophet Muhammad declared that "fasting is not only abstinence from food and drink, fasting is to refrain from obscene acts." As per this statement, it implies that one should have complete control over one's physical and mental facilities. Thus, an individual must keep a check over the actions of his eyes, ears, tongue, hands, and heart. This will ensure that he does not lose control at any time and cause the peaceful nature of society to be disturbed. The period of Ramzan also encourages the promotion of harmony among members of the society. Residing in tranquillity with the neighbouring inhabitants is considered to be one of the best forms of charity that a person can do. This holy month prevents Muslims from participating in any aggressive acts. In fact, people are exhorted to repent and seek forgiveness from those that they have wronged earlier. Ramzan is the time for fostering the spirit of unity among all members of a community.


What significance does Ramzan have for you? What other traditions are associated with Ramzan? To share your experiences, views, and tips, click here.


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