With the advent of the holy month of Ramadan, mosques have started to illuminate city nights with mahyas, messages spelled out with lights strung between minarets. Believed to be the most blessed and spiritually beneficial month on the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is being greeted with excitement and joy by Muslims in countries all throughout the world, already bedecked with the spiritual atmosphere of this holy period.

The world's 1.2 billion Muslims have embarked on a month of reflection and purification. This holy month is celebrated throughout the entire world with great enthusiasm as an opportunity to remove all cultural and geographic obstacles to the unification of the entire Muslim population around common sacred values. Muslims will abstain from eating and drinking from the break of dawn to sunset for one month, observing one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, the remaining four of which are shahada (faith in the oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad), the prescribed daily prayers, almsgiving and pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
During Ramadan, believers are expected to put more effort into refraining from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backbiting and gossip and are encouraged to read the entire Quran.
The most blessed of all months, Ramadan has received a heartfelt welcome all across the world, with Muslim believers stepping into a holy period of reflection and purification to review their lives in light of Islamic teachings and refocus their attention to God, avoiding bad deeds
The month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar (Hijri) calendar, established in 638 by the second caliph of the Prophet Muhammad, Omar. The month of Ramadan is the most venerated and blessed month of the Islamic year.
In the lunar calendar, months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, Ramadan migrates throughout the seasons. The most prominent event of this month is the fasting practiced by most Muslims around the world. Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world stop eating about one hour before the sun comes up and break their fast when the fourth prayer of the day, maghrib, is due.
The fast is intended to be an act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a heightened level of closeness to God. It is expected to allow the fasters to experience the deprivations which the poor people are usually exposed to. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul (nafs) and free it from all evil qualities disliked by God. Properly observing the fast is supposed to induce a feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline and sacrifice, as well as sympathy for those less fortunate, aiming to make Muslims more generous and charitable.
What is Ramadan, the most blessed of all months?

The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan, is spent by Muslims around the world in a complete fast. They abstain from eating and drinking and intimacy with the opposite sex until nightfall, when a meal is served to break the day's fast. As a time to purify the soul, Muslims refocus their attention on God and avoid from various daily enjoyments throughout Ramadan.
During this month, prayers, fasting, charity and self-accountability are particularly emphasized, and all obligatory religious observances are further encouraged during this time as the Prophet Muhammad called this month, "the month of my ummah [people]."
The name Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word "ramida" or "ar-ramad," which means intense scorching heat and dryness of the ground. Muslims are advised to spend this month reviewing their lives in light of Islamic teachings. It is recommended that they forgive those who wronged or hurt them, improve ties with family and friends, refrain from bad deeds and repent for their wrong doings. In this way, Muslims can purify their souls, lives, thoughts and feelings. Ramadan brings special excitement and religious zeal to Muslims, who are supposed to change their both physical and emotional conditions during the fasting period. Therefore, fasting is not merely a physical act; it is a spiritual commitment as well. A typical Ramadan day begins by waking up at an early hour for suhoor, a small pre-dawn meal. Fasting, which starts with the break of dawn, continues until iftar time.
Though fasting is only mandatory as of adolescence, young children are generally interested in observe fasting with their elders. They look forward to the excitement of the holy month of Ramadan and breaking their fasts with special meals they share with their families. Adults also appreciate the opportunity to double their rewards from God and seek forgiveness for their past sins. Ramadan brings with it an atmosphere of peace, fraternity and tolerance, which enables Muslims to lead better lives in terms of spirituality and moral values.
During Ramadan, every part of the body must refrain from bad deeds. The tongue must avoid gossiping. The eyes must refrain from looking at forbidden things. The hands must not touch or take anything that does not belong to them. The ears must avoid listening to idle conversation or obscene words. And the feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In this way, all parts of the body observe fasting. Pregnant women, the elderly, the ill, travelers -- provided that they make up the prescribed period of fasting later -- and children who have not reached puberty are all exempt from fasting.

21 August 2009, Friday