Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic Higera calendar. Literally, Ramzan means “heat” or “something that burns up”. The name assumes significance as fasting, charity and noble deeds in Ramzan burn 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 Ramzan is that fasting during this month had been in vogue even before the birth of the Holy Prophet, Hazrat Mohammed (peace be upon him). The righteous and pious among the Arabs used to observe fasting and pay charity during Ramzan. The Holy Prophet has streamlined the system of fasting and charity and made them mandatory for all Muslims.
Of the 12 lunar Islamic months, Ramzan is considered holy primarily because the Almighty God had revealed the Holy Quran on Hazrat Mohammed during this month about 15 centuries ago. The Holy Prophet was deep in meditation in the Cave of Hira on the outskirts of Mecca when he received the divine message through Archangel Gabriel (Hazrat Jibrail).
The message from God continued to be revealed to 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.
“Ramzan 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 Ramzan 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 Mohammed is the Messenger of God), Namaz (five daily prayers) and Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca),”
Referring to the importance of Ramzan, the Holy Quran (2:185) observes, “Ramzan is the (month) in which the Quran was sent down, as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (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 Ramzan. 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.” (Quran: 97:1-3).
“The Night of Power or Lailat-ul-Qadr falls on one of the nights in the last 10 days of Ramzan. Muslims spend in prayers all through the night supplicating to the Almighty for peace and blessings.
Ramzan 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 by heart) 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 Ramzan 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 Ramzan 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 during the month of Ramzan out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”
Apart from its religious significance, Ramzan 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 Ramzan makes Muslims understand the sufferings of the poor and on the other it makes it mandatory for 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 Ramzan. The amount runs into at least Rs 2,000 crore in 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 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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