Growing up in India is a multicultural experience. There is something to learn about a new culture or religion every month of the year and one of the most widely celebrated festivals here is Eid.
The most important Muslim festival is known as Eid-ul-fitr, which literally means the festival of breaking of the fast. The month before Eid is a time of self-reflection and alms-giving, a time for family and community where Muslims thank Allah for all the good in their lives.
The month before the festival of Eid is known as Ramzan (in Urdu) or Ramadan (in Arabic). It is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. It begins at the sighting of the 9th crescent moon and ends on the night of the 10th crescent moon of the lunar calendar. The day after the sighting of the 10th crescent moon is known as Eid and is one of two main festicals celebrated by Muslims the world over.
The Muslim calendar is lunar and so it counts 1 month as 28 days- the time between 2 crescent moons. Since 1 year on the lunar calender is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, festivals like Eid move forward every year.
Ramzan has no connection with the cycle of the seasons or any event in history. It’s sole purpose is for Muslims to devote a part of the year to reflect on their lives and remember Allah. There are three main reasons why Muslims fast during the month of Ramzan:
1. It teaches you about compassion.
Not all people are fortunate to afford regular meals. Fasting helps you understand what people who cannot afford regular meals experience on a daily basis.
2. It teaches you self-control.
Fasting when there is temptation all around you helps build your will power which you can apply to other parts of your life as well.
3. It allows you time to purify your body.
Because people fast during Ramzan, they become very aware of their bodies. This eventually leads to spiritual thoughts.
Roza, Suhoor and Iftar
Roza according to the Quran is the ritual fast in the name of Allah. People are not allowed to eat or drink while the sun is in the sky so they wake up before dawn to eat enough to keep them going through the day. This morning meal is known as Suhoor and people must keep their fast until after the evening prayer. The evening meal or iftar usually occurs outside a mosque itself. Most people will break their fast with some dates and a cup of water before moving on to heavier foods.
The day after the 10th crescent moon is a day of big celebration. As we have seen, Ramzan builds community by bringing people together over food and Eid is no different. The family will gather for a sweet breakfast before the morning prayer and then pray together.
The day is spent visiting relatives and friends while indulging in elaborate meals. Some of the tasty delights are haleem- a rich preparation made of wheat, barley, and meat; biryani; and a variety of sweets like suttar feni and vermicelli are also common.
- Muslims fast during the month of Ramzan to distance themselves from the material world and build self-control. Pick an activity that gives you a lot of pleasure and decide not to do it for a week. When that time is over, you will notice how much more you appreciate doing it once more.
- Eid ul fitr is one of two Muslim celebrations. Can you find out about the other major Muslim festival Eid-al-Adha (the feast of sacrifice)?
- Take the time to get to know someone’s Ramadan experience. Choose a friend or relative that has fated the entire month of Ramzan. Ask them the following questions:
- At what age did you complete your first fast?
- What did the first week feel like?
- Did it become easier as the month went along?
- How did you get over your hunger?
- What was the most memorable moment of your first Ramzan?
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