Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ramadhan and Hari Raya Celebration

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month and a time of fasting and prayer, began Tuesday.
Each morning local Muslim families join for breakfast at around 5:30 a.m. They will not be allowed to eat, drink or participate in any kind of sexual activity again until the sun goes down. At sunset, around 7:30 each night, they will again gather together for a meal and prayer. This goes on for 30 days.

Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on the lunar calendar. It is a time to celebrate the mercy of Allah, forgiveness and freedom from hellfire, according to Simab Khan, a local Muslim community member. It is also one of the five pillars of Islam. The others are: believing in the oneness of God; Salat (prayers required five times a day); Zakat (charity); and Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca required once in a lifetime).

Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to the prophet during this month.
"This is a night which is better than 1,000 months," Dr. Imran Nazeer, a local Muslim community member, quoted from the Quran.

Each night during Ramadan Muslims do taraweeh or collective prayers which last for two hours. A holy man will also recite all 30 chapters of the Holy Quran from memory.
Besides fasting, Ramadan is also a time for Muslims to give charity and do kind deeds for others. Although Muslims believe in doing these things all year, most Muslims give the required 2.5 percent of their savings to charity this month since any act of charity or any kind deed carries 70 times more reward during this time.

Mufti Muzammil Hussain came from Beaumont to recite the Quran for Ramadan. Speaking through the translation of Nazeer, Hussain explained that the fasting and prayer serves two functions. The first is to get closer to God's creation by allowing Muslims to feel how someone without food to eat or something to drink might feel. The second is to get close to the Creator through the nightly prayers.

Hussain also said that the prayers are not only for Muslims, but that Muslims should pray for paradise and protection from hell for all of humanity. He said Muslims do not believe the Quran was sent only for them but that it was sent as mercy for the worlds and is not confined to just their religion.

At the end of the 30 days a big celebration will mark the end of Ramadan.
"You celebrate the fact that God has given you the ability to fast and get close to God," Nazeer said.