Ramadan Mubarak is also used as a greeting when meeting family, friends and colleagues during Ramadan, means Happy Ramadan or Ramadan the blessed month.
I want to start this post with mentioning the 5 Pillars of Islam. A lot of what happens during Ramadan is directly related to these 5 pillars. Earlier in the year I was going to do several posts on Islam but it kept getting bumped back on the list. Now that we are in the middle of the Ramadan observance and it has been way to hot to travel in the region, I thought it would be a good time to write about it.
The 5 Pillars of Islam is the framework, the foundation of Muslim life. They are the five obligations that every Muslim must satisfy in order to live a good and responsible life according to Islam. The 5 Pillars of Islam consists of:
- Shahadah: the testimony of faith saying that there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God’s messenger, this is the most important pillar of Islam
- Salat: performing prayer five times a day, each prayer takes just a few minutes each time to perform
- Zakat: the giving of 2.5% of ones saving’s to the poor and needy
- Sawn: fasting from dawn to sundown, abstaining from food and drink during the month of Ramadan
- Hajj: the pilgrimage to Makka is obligatory once in a lifetime for those who are physically and financially able
In the last post we talked about Sawn, fasting during Ramadan and Zakat the giving to charity.
This post will be about Hajj and more on dates. As mentioned above the 5th Pillar is a pilgrimage to Mekka. (spelling in the west is Mecca) It is a religious duty to at least once in his or her lifetime to visit Mecca. Most pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. This ritual goes back thousands of years to the time of Abraham. Pilgrims would join processions of hundreds of thousands of people who would simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of Hajj. The pilgrims performs a series of ritual acts symbolic of the lives of Abraham and his wife Hajar, these acts also symbolize the solidarity of Muslims worldwide. Hajj is the pilgrimage done on the second week of the 12th month of the year and the rituals take several days to perform. Pilgrimages can be done anytime of the year but during Hajj and Ramadan is when most go.
Mecca houses the largest and oldest mosque in the world, the Al-Masjid al-Haram. In the center of the mosque is the Kaaba called The Cube also know as the Sacred House. It is said to be the first house built for people to worship Allah. The Kaaba is the most sacred point is the center of Islam, built around that is the Haram the most sacred mosque in Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. It is the most sacred point in the most sacred mosque making it the most sacred location in Islam. Everywhere in the world Muslims face Mecca for their daily prayers.
The mosque, in the center of Mecca, covers 88 acres and can accommodate up to 820,000 worshipers. More than 15 million Muslims visit Mecca annually including 7 million during the Hajj. Because of this, Mecca has become one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the Muslim world. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the city.
Dates – I read an article online in the English version of the Arab News saying that people in KSA are stocking up on dates ahead of Ramadan in anticipation of price rises during the busy season. It said that date shops and retailers are seeing unprecedented demand for dates leading up to the holy month, making Ramadan the busiest season of the year for the industry. It said that prices can increase as much as 30% due to the high demand, many purchase enough dates to last the entire month.
The ajwa date is one of the most popular dates during Ramadan. Is goes back 5000 years and there are several references to the date around the time of Mohammed. He said that when eating 7 ajwa dates in the morning Allah will protect you for the whole day. Mohammed also talked about the remedial value in ajwa dates. The ajwa variety is grown in the Medina area just north of Mecca. Besides being eaten during Ramadan and the Hijj, it is a very popular gift to give to family and friends when returning from Mecca. It is widely available in the city including in the international airport lounges for sale in attractive packaging. Recently when I went to the local store and asked for ajwa dates, the sales person said “oh you mean the break-fast date”.
The food stores that I frequent all have considerate shelf space for dates throughout the year but they have doubled that space during Ramadan. Below are some pictures of date displays in some of the food markets. Next up, daily prayers.