Ramadan - The Holy Month

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, is considered as one of the holiest months of the year. It was in 610 A.D. when the prophet Muhammad was said to have received revelations from God that later became Islam’s holy book, the Quran (Koran).

The Quran (2:185) states that it was in the month of Ramadan that the Quran was revealed. In fact, Ramadan commemorates that part, of the Muslim year, when "the Qur'an was sent down as a guidance for the people" and also for the " judgment between the right and wrong". Another verse of the Quran (97:1) states that it was revealed "on the night of determination," which Muslims generally observe on the night of 26-27 Ramadan.

The holy season begins with the sighting of the crescent moon on the evening following the new moon and lasts for 29 or 30 days depending on the lunar cycle. According to the Quran, Muslims must see the New Moon with the naked eye before they can begin their fast. The practice has arisen that two witnesses should testify to this before a qadi (judge), who, if satisfied, communicates the news to the mufti (the interpreter of Muslim law), who orders the beginning of the fast. It has become usual for Middle Eastern Arab countries to accept, with reservations, the verdict of Cairo. Should the New Moon prove to be invisible, then the month Sha'ban, immediately preceding Ramadan, will be reckoned as 30 days in length, and the fast will begin on the day following the last day of this month. Ramadan, the ninth month, is observed throughout the Muslim world as a month of fasting. The end of the fast follows the same procedure. By fasting, Muslims believe they can learn the discipline and self-restraint that Mohammed preached. Thus fasting is taken as a form of worship and a time of empowerment.

Even though from dawn to sunset, Muslims abstain from food, drink and all sensual pleasures, that doesn’t mean food is entirely out of the picture. Two main meals are taken each day during Ramadan. The souhoor begins each day before dawn and the aftar breaks the fast after sunset. At the sundown each day the fast is broken with the dates and water or the apricot drink. Mostly this is followed by a traditional soup like lentil and a salad like 'fattoushi'. However, the main meal can be anything. There are no restrictions, olives, cheeses, meats, everything just goes. Every family has its traditional dishes to enjoy. Also sweets are also an important part of Ramadan food. Usually ladies at home prepare the special Ramadan dishes for the evening meal. Many go out to give the women a break. Visits are exchanged for a community get together and feasts within their own faith. But it is not prudent to indulge in eating too much while after the fast. Because the stomach shrinks during this fast. In fact, the fast loses its meaning with an indulgence.

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