September 23, 2006
By Syed Akbar
Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic Higera calendar. Literally Ramadhan means "heat" or "something that burns up". The name assumes significance as fasting, charity and noble deeds in Ramadhan burns away sins, Satanic filth and ego from the hearts and minds of the people, who turn to the Almighty during this holy month.
A notable feature of Ramadhan is that fasting during this month had been in vogue even before the birth of the Holy Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him). The righteous and pious among the Arabs used to observe fasting and pay charity during Ramadhan. The Holy Prophet has streamlined the system of fasting and charity and made them mandatory on all Muslims.
Of the 12 lunar Islamic months, Ramadhan is considered holy primarily because the Almighty God had revealed the Holy Quran on Hazrat Muhammad during this month about 15 centuries ago. The Holy Prophet was deep in meditation in the Cave of Hira in the outskirts of Mecca when he received the Divine Message through Archangel Gabriel (Hazrat Jibrail). The Message from God continued to be revealed on the Holy Prophet thereafter for the next 23 years. This Divine Code is the Holy Quran, the last of the Scriptures of God sent to prophets and messengers from time to time to all places and to all people.
"Ramadhan is also considered holy because God has prescribed fasting and ordained charity. While fasting is obligatory on all Muslims, men and women, without exception, charity is enjoined on only those who are financially sound. The charity given during Ramadhan is of two types, Zakat (compulsory charity) and fitra (alms). Zakat like fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, the other being Kalima (assertion that there is only one God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God), Namaz (five daily prayers) and Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca)," says Islamic scholar Hafiz Syed Shujath Hussain.
Referring to the importance of Ramadhan, the Holy Quran (2:185) observes, "Ramadhan is the (month) in which the Qur'an was sent down, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at home) during that month should spend it in fasting…"
The Holy Quran is also specific about the time of revelation during the month of Ramadhan. Elsewhere, the Scripture says, "Indeed, We have revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power. And what will explain to thee what the night of power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months" Qur'an (97:1-3).
"The Night of Power or Lailat-ul-Qadr falls on one of the odd nights in the last 10 days of Ramadhan. Muslims spend in prayers all through the night supplicating to the Almighty for peace and blessings on all people and all creatures. Ramadhan is the occasion for Muslims to mend their ways and establish a direct link with the Creator," points out Islamic teacher Moulana Abdul Kareem.
In commemoration of the revelation of the Holy Quran, special night prayers called the Taraveeh are held in all mosques and at select homes and other places. Hafiz (those who know the Quran byheart) recite the Holy Quran in parts on 30 nights. In Hyderabad and other Indian cities, special arrangements are also made for women to offer the Taraveeh prayers.
Referring to the importance of fasting, the Holy Prophet observed: Allah, the Almighty has said: "every act of man is for him except fasting, it is done for My (Allah's) sake and I will give reward for it. The breath of a person on fast is sweeter to Allah than the fragrance of musk."
Muslims the world over take to heavy charity work during Ramadhan as they believe that Almighty God will reward them 70 fold or even more. According to an Hadith (sayings and traditions of the Prophet), "when Ramadhan starts, the gates of paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the Satan is chained.
The Prophet has also said: The affliction of a person in his property, family and neighbours is expiated by his prayers, fasting and giving in charity. Whoever fasts the month of Ramadhan out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.
Apart from its religious significance, Ramadhan has social importance too. While fasting makes a person understand the pangs of hunger and thirst so that he help the poor and the underprivileged. On one hand Ramadhan makes Muslims understand the sufferings of the poor and on the other it makes it mandatory on every well-to-do Muslim to donate in the cause of the Almighty God. Fasting also makes one physically fit and mentally agile.
"The money collected from Zakat and Fitra, if properly utilised, will solve the problem of poverty in many countries. In Hyderabad alone Zakat and Fitra worth Rs 100 crore is given every Ramadhan. The amount runs into at least Rs 2,000 crore for India. Unfortunately, there is no centralised agency to collect and spend the Zakat money for the common good of all. We should have the concept of Bait-ul-Maal (charitable treasury)," says Moulana Rafeeuddin Qasmi.
Muslims end this great month by celebrating the Id-ul-fitr or the festival of alms-giving as a gratitude to the Almighty for having Blessed them with the opportunity to fast and make amends. Fitra is compulsory before the Id prayers so that the have-nots too join the festivities.
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