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Ramadhan Fasting Month

Ramadhan fasting month (also spelled as Ramadan) is the ninth month according to the Muslim calendar.

All able-bodied Muslims above puberty are required to fast from dawn to dusk, while abstaining from doing certain things that will forfeit the fast.

This is the time to purify the soul by doing a lot of special prayers (these are called terawih and witir prayers, after the compulsory Isyak prayer), reciting the Al-Quran and doing good deeds such as giving alms to the poor or getting involved in other charitable activities.

This is also the time when the Muslims are supposed to be more conscious of avoiding sinful behavior such as swearing, lying, cheating, gossiping and the like. It is said they have to fast not only by abstaining from food and drinks, but also from looking at obscene materials, saying bad words or thinking foul thoughts.

One of the reasons why Ramadhan is much revered is because, during this month, the first verse of the Al-Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The day is the 17th of Ramadhan and it is known as Nuzul-Quran. In Malaysia, it is a public holiday. Even though there is a recent research which suggested that the exact date of Nuzul Quran is 24th of Ramadhan, the traditional date is much more celebrated.

Another highlight of Ramadhan is the Lailatul-Qadar night. Traditionally, it is celebrated on the 27th night of Ramadhan fasting month. Locally, it is known as Malam Tujuh Likur. On this night, angels descend from heaven to earth, bringing their blessings. It is also believed, that only the worthy would be able to witness it. Among the signs are that, bodies of water would freeze and every tree bows to welcome the angels.

Devout and pious Muslims would pray and recite the Holy Al-Quran all night, preferably on every night of Ramadhan fasting month. The reason is because no one is supposed to know when exactly the Lailatul-Qadar is. Those who happen to catch the phenomenon would be granted any kind of wishes they desire.

For the children, the 27th night is celebrated with joy. On this night, they are allowed to play with fireworks (even though fireworks is outlawed according to the Malaysian law). Usually, rows of lights are lit to decorate the houses. It also signifies that Hari Raya is around the corner within three days (subject to the sighting of the new moon).

There will be special meals prepared at the mosques for the congregation. In fact, on every Ramadhan evening, breaking fast meals (buka puasa), as well as after prayers short snacks (known as more, pronounced "morei") are prepared.

Pasar Ramadhan will be held at many places. It is similar to night market but held a bit earlier during the day. Designated spots would be full with traders who were looking for extra income. Most of these food sellers only do their business for this month only.

Food, food, food! It is ironic that in the month of austerity, a lot of emphasize is on food. This is the best time for visitors to sample the variety of street food in Penang. From imported dates stuffed with chocolate to sweet or spicy little cakes covered with coconut shavings, you would be wild-eyed with all the choices.

According to Islam, it is preferable for those who fast to start their meals with a piece of date together with a little water. In preparation for the whole day of activities without food, they are required to wake up before dawn to eat a meal called makan sahur.Yes, it is really tough to discipline yourself to follow the routine.

I always love the time just before sunrise and slightly after it. The atmosphere seemed to be much more serene during this holy month. It could be due to the fact that people are not rushing as much to go to work. The streets and cafes area also are not as busy with people hunting for their breakfast.

Those who are sincere in their beliefs and practice would feel lighter in mind and body after performing these rites. The ones who truly embrace the spirit of Ramadhan fasting month are the happiest people when the month ends as they celebrate the Eid.

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