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VEDANTA MASS MEDIARamadan holds special significance for Indian Muslims  

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Ramadan holds special significance for Indian Muslims (Comment)


               By Danish Ahmad Khan

               

              

 

 

      The holy month of Ramadan (or Ramzan as it is known in this region) holds a special significance for the people of the Indian subcontinent. It is when the faithful not only show piety and compassion but try to send across a strong message of communal harmony.

 

      Muslims use the lunar, Hijri, calendar in their reckoning of time where the day starts just after nightfall and ends at the succeeding nightfall. According to the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, it is mandatory that the sighting of the new moon takes place before the fasting is started. If that does not happen on the expected date, the fast should begin the following day.

 

      During Prophet Muhammad's time when there was confusion about starting of Ramadan, the Prophet's advice was to start fasting after marking the Ramadan crescent moon and to stop fasting after marking the Shawwal (the ensuing month) crescent moon.

 

      Muslims in the subcontinent, particularly India, still follow the rules of the local muftis, who insist on actual sighting of the moon by two reliable Muslims. They do not rely on the announcements made by countries like Saudi Arabia though at times muftis may accept the ruling of Pakistan's Hilal Committee (Crescent Sighting Committee).

 

      As such, there is a Hilal Committee in every city in India headed by a mufti or imam of the grand mosque in the city. Besides, there is a central moon sighting committee in New Delhi which decides and announces the date after ascertaining the reliability of people who claim to have sighted the moon.

 

      The sighting of the new moon is a social event in itself. It is a joyous moment for every Muslim. From the evening, hordes of children and elders can be seen on their rooftops, trying to catch a glimpse of the new crescent. The moment the new moon is sighted, people raise their hands in thanksgiving to the Almighty. The enthusiasm is such that it is welcomed by bursting of crackers. Once the sighting is confirmed, sirens fitted on mosques wail.

 

      On occasions there had been conflicts between muftis over the sighting of the moon. Thus, in the same region, there have been reports of fast and celebration of Eid on different dates. Normally muftis try to arrive at a consensus to avoid conflict, which the mass of Muslims resent.

 

      Arabs living here in India follow the Saudi announcement of the beginning of Ramadan and Eid celebration. Some in Kerala also observe fasting like the Arabs do.

 

      In Delhi, Arabs have their own mosque -- in Defence Colony. Besides, a mosque is located in the Sudanese embassy where Eid is celebrated usually one or two days before Indian Muslims mark it.

 

      With the sighting of the new moon, the faithful observe Tarawih prayers just after the Isha (night) prayers. These are normally 20 rak'as, though some observe only eight. The Huffaz (those who memorise the Holy Quran) take this opportunity to recite the Quran during Tarawih. The Quran is usually completed in around 25 days. However, some Huffaz complete it in three, five, 10 or 15 days.

 

      Tarawih gives a golden opportunity to the Huffaz to revise what they memorize of the Holy Quran. On the concluding day of the Tarawih prayer, called Khatm, sweets are distributed and Huffaz are honoured and bestowed with gifts and rewards. The occasion provides a grand spectacle that day when children can be seen queuing for receiving sweets.

 

      These days some Arab Huffaz, especially from Egypt, visit Indian cities and people flock to hear their recitation of the Quran.

 

      The fasting begins with sihri (suhur), which is a light breakfast shortly before dawn. Hence, the faithful are regularly intimated about the timings of sihri. Once drum beaters used to do rounds of the locality and wake up people for sihri. Now traditional methods are giving way to modern ones.

 

      During Ramadan, in Muslim localities, prices of eatables like fruits and dry fruits and other essentials soar due to the increasing demand. Dates imported from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran are in great demand since the faithful prefer to break their fast by eating a couple of dates following the tradition of Prophet Muhammad.

 

      During this pious month, nightlife comes alive in Delhi's Muslim areas, including the walled city and particularly around the famed Jama Masjid, a huge 17th century mosque.

 

      There is an air of festivity. There is plenty on sale: plastic wares, glass bangles, aluminum paandaans (betel cases), colorful arrays of skull caps and sensuous ittars (non-alcoholic perfumes). The aroma of seekh kababs, thick pudding - all invite the faithful to break their fast with the sunset adhan (call for prayer).

 

      The month of Ramadan also promotes communal bonds. It is an occasion for politicians to organise lavish Iftar parties. This is when politicians of all hues send out a message that the people of India are one.

 

      (Danish Ahmed Khan can be reached at danish.k@ians.in)

 

 


      Indo-Asian News Service

 

 

 

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International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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