Ramadan Kareem, means “Ramadan the Generous Month”, this is said when you greet family, friends and colleagues during the month of Ramadan.
In the Islamic world the observation of Ramadan is now taken place. It is an annual religious observance when Muslims around the world fast from sunup to sundown for about a month, 29 to 30 days. Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is considered the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar
Ramadan is an annual observance that falls on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar or Muslim calendar is a lunar calendar made up of 12 months in a year totaling 354 or 355 days. Saudi Arabia uses the sighting method, the sighting of the moon, to determine the beginning of each month of the Islamic calendar. There are several official sighting committees set up by the government to determine the first visual sighting of the lunar crescent at the beginning of each month. Ramadan begins on the next day at sundown when the moon crescent is sighted. This year Ramadan was scheduled to start at sundown on the 28th June but the sighting committee did not see the lunar crescent so it started the following evening on the 29th. I read that the crescent was not sighted because the moon set before the sun did in most regions of the country.
Ramadan is the month of fasting. Fasting is “obligatory” for all adult Muslims with the exception of people with illness, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, or going through a menstrual cycle. While fasting, Muslims refrain from eating any food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations. They also refrain from behavior which is consider sinful like swearing, engaging in disagreements, listening to music and procrastination. There are rewards for fasting but during Ramadan the rewards are believed to be multiplied. It also includes increased time of prayers and the reading of the Quran.
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effect into following the teachings of Islam. Fasting is said to redirect the heart from worldly activities, its purpose is to cleanse the soul freeing it from harmful impurities. It teaches how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for the less fortunate, encouraging generosity and compulsory charity. Children are required to start fasting when they reach puberty as long as they are healthy, sane and have no illnesses. If you cannot fast during Ramadan you must make up the days missed at a later time.
Each day before dawn, before the first prayer, many Muslims have a pre-fast meal. This year Ramadan is in the summer, the first prayer of the day called Fajr, at sunrise, starts around 3:20am. The fourth prayer called Maghrib is at sunset around 6:36pm it is when they can break the fast. Throughout the month the prayer times change by a minute every two days based on when the sun rises and sets. Before the Maghrib, the sunset prayer, Muslims have a fast-breaking meal known as iftar.
The first food eaten to break the fast are dates and drinking water. According to tradition, Muhammad broke fast by eating three dates. They then go to the Maghrib prayer. Following the prayer Muslim meet at social gatherings, usually buffets, that serve traditional dishes and many desserts and sweets.
The last prayer of the day is usually two hour after sunset, it is called Isha. During Ramadan this prayer sometimes last for several hours. Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran during the month. The Quran is divided into 30 parts and in many mosques every night during Ramadan 1/30 of the Quran is read during the last prayer. By now it is close to 10pm, and many go to banquet type festivals.
Ramadan is also a time of giving. Charity is very important in Islam and even more so during Ramadan. A fixed percent of a person savings is required to be given to the poor. In Islam all good deeds are more handsomely rewarded in Ramadan than in any other month of the year. Many will give a larger portion if not all, in order to maximize the reward that will await them at the Last Judgment.
Dates have been a very important food in the Middle East especially around Ramadan. Besides being grown in the region it also has many health benefits. The dates have a high level of natural sugars. These sugars travel quickly to the liver where they are converted into energy which is needed to perform the sunset prayers. After the prayer additional energy is needed to digest food. After fasting all day the body is in a weakened condition, eating dates helps get the digestive process going again so more complex foods can be eaten. Dates are high in vitamins A and B6, folic acid, potassium, natural sodium, iron and magnesium plus they have large amounts of dietary fiber. It is like taking a daily multi-vitamin.
Most of the palm trees in the region are date palms. Below are some pictures of date palms in and around Khobar. Because I do not have any pictures of Ramadan and I know everyone enjoys seeing pictures, I am going to talk about dates and show you pictures of the date palms, woo-hoo! Not having any idea and never really thinking about how dates are grown, I think it’s interesting! Woo-hoo again!
I will have several more posts on the observance of Ramadan, on the Five Pillars of Islam and more about dates, the food of the Middle East.