The Holy month of Ramadan is just around the corner. Muslims around the world are impatiently awaiting its arrival. And why would we not?
It is, after all, our favorite time of the year.
A month that holds much more significance than just being a religious duty.
A month that incites joy, excitement, and anxiousness among the hearts of Muslims all over the world.
Celebrations and festivities mark the arrival of the blessed month. It brings with it, a deep cultural awakening as well as a sense of responsibility towards our religious duties.
As Ramadan approaches, our hearts begin to ache and our bodies begin to thirst. While our minds begin to crave the peace and contentment, the blessings, and the tranquil atmosphere that Ramadan brings along with it.
As the countdown begins, 5 days until Ramadan, We feel ourselves faltering ‘How many sins have I committed?’ 4 days until Ramadan, ‘How much displeasure have I collected? of the Lord Almighty’, 3 days until Ramadan, ‘Does He even love me?’ 2 days until Ramadan, ‘Would He ever forgive me?’ 1 day until Ramadan, Our heart feels light, We can feel the blessings of the night, As Ramadan arrives, We cry and we cry, And our Lord says, ‘You’re forgiven tonight.’
Our souls, aching to feel that blissful connection with our Lord that had been lost somewhere. Somewhere in our busy lives while our minds seek the solace that only prayer can provide.
The night-long Taraweeh prayers and the refreshing festivities of iftar. The nights spent in prayer and enjoying Suhoor with the family. These beautiful days are forthcoming and we simply cannot wait any longer.
What makes Ramadan so special
Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year and holds a special place in the hearts of every Muslim. Its significance has been repeated multiple times both, in the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet (SAW).
- The Night of Decree, Laylat-al-Qadr is observed in the last ten days of Ramadan.
- The Holy Quran, the scripture from God, was revealed in the month of Ramadan.
“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for guidance and the criterion.” (2:185)
- It is the month in which the Almighty showers His blessings and forgives His servants every day.
- The supplications of the fasting person are accepted.
“Indeed there is for the fasting person, when he breaks his fast, a supplication which is not rejected”. (Ibn Majah, al-Hakim)
- A month of Allah’s mercy and forgiveness.
“Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Hadith, Bukhari)
Ramadan Traditions Around the World
As customs, ideologies, and cultures differ from person to person, community to community, country to country and religion to religion, traditions of Ramadan, too differ country to country and culture to culture.
As Ramadan arrives, routines change and daily activities face a turnaround.
Some countries follow traditions, specific to the month of Ramadan to add to the aura of the month. A number of these traditions are unique to certain ethnic groups.
To get into the spirit of Ramadan and to let the souls feel the blessings of the upcoming few days, people all around the world engage in various festivities and traditions to make the most of the sacred month.
In Pakistan, the spirit of Ramadan arrives way before the month’s actual arrival.
A buzz of excitement and energy radiates among the masses as the public heads towards their closest supermarkets to stock up food for Suhoor and Iftar.
Houses come alive with decorations while every family member seems to be on a mission of cleaning the house rigorously.
Men pray Taraweeh prayer after Isha while the womenfolk do the same at home.
Staying awake until Fajr has become a tradition in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, several kinds of foods have become specific to the month of Ramadan like Pakoras, Samosas, Fruit Chaats and the popular Suhoor food, Pheni — which, in my whole twenty years of life, I have only ever seen exist during Ramadan.
One particularly wholesome tradition of Ramadan that I have witnessed in Pakistan is the roadside Iftaar setups by volunteers for the ease of people stuck in traffic after office hours.
Various mosques host Iftar feasts for the poor as well as the general public and people take great pleasure in contributing to these festivities in every way possible.
Image: Instagram. Volunteers from Spreading smiles community organize a roadside Iftaar. 2019
Very similar to the traditions observed in Pakistan, Ramadan’s advent is marked by the thrilling and cheerful aura of the neighborhoods as children head out of the confinements of their homes to roam about the streets singing songs and collecting sweets from the neighbors.
One ancient tradition that has been followed for ages in Saudia Arabia is the hosting of a feast the night before Ramadan at the house of the family head. Gifts are exchanged and celebrations ensue as everyone awaits the first morning of the month of Ramadan.
During Ramadan, a complete reversal of time is observed as the days turn somber and dull while the nights come alive with the laughter of children and the rush of people in restaurants — which are otherwise closed during the day.
Among the age-old traditions rooted deep in the culture of Arabs are the drummers who beat on their drums at dawn to mark the beginning of Suhoor time. Often, children would tag along with the drummers singing songs and clapping along with the loud bangs of the drums.
Mosques come alive as they remain open the whole night after Iftar. Many families participate in the Iftar gatherings at the mosque by sending homemade food to the mosque to contribute to the feast.
It seems as if the two —eternally alive — mosques in Mecca and Medina become even brighter with the spirit of Ramadan.
Pilgrims from other countries are met with incredible hospitality with volunteers distributing dates and waters for the fasting Muslims to break their fast with.
Occupying its place as the country with the most abundant Muslim population, — over 87% of the Indonesian population being Muslims according to the 2010 census — Ramadan festivities in Indonesia are out of the world.
Muslims come together to pray in congregations with huge Ramadan feasts hosted almost everywhere. Sharing of iftar food amongst neighbors is a traditional gesture that signifies love and unity.
One particular tradition unique to Indonesia is the children’s way of greeting Ramadan by playing with firecrackers and firing fireworks. This sets in the festive feeling while cheerful decorations adorn houses upon houses.
Indonesian Muslims also enjoy breaking their fasts in the jovial atmosphere of the markets where stalls line up the roadsides. The aroma of scrumptious food wafting through the air while the markets are decorated with a myriad of lights and decorations make the breaking of the fast an incredibly wonderful experience.
A great many Indonesian Muslims follow the custom of visiting their loved ones’ graves during the Ramadan season to spend time with them and to include them in their celebrations. This tradition is known as Nyekar.
The Muslim community is popular throughout the world for its festive streak and deep-rooted cultural traditions and customs. Turkey is one of the most culturally rich countries in the world. Ramadan in Turkey is a month of celebrations and gaiety and Muslims observe it with high spirits as a traditional awakening surge through the people, despite having been heavily influenced by the West.
Similar to other Muslim countries that observe the tradition of drum beating at the time of Suhoor, Turks follow the same tradition as the drummers arrive just in time for Suhoor.
Iftar gatherings are also conducted on large scales by the locals in parks, buses, and other public places where all are free to join and consume a variety of sweet and savory Turkish Iftar cuisines prepared by the residents.
An ancient tradition unique to Turkey is the firing of the cannons at sunset.
Every day in Ramadan, a loud bang of the cannon announces the time of sunset. Which is the time of breaking the fasts.
Sadly though, the tradition is gradually waning and losing its value to modern cultural innovations. However, it is not absolutely uncommon to suddenly hear a loud bang in Istanbul or other cities at Iftaar time.
Throughout the night marketplaces are alive and vibrant as many Muslims head that way to shop for Eid.
Perhaps the most vibrant traditions of Ramadan are observed in Egypt. Egyptians are heavily influenced by culture, religion, and tradition. The month of Ramadan is a joyous time for the children and adults alike.
Ramadan preparations begin as children decorate the narrow streets of their neighborhood with beautiful lights and sparkling ornaments. Balconies are lit up with trinkets and embellishments of all kinds.
Much like how a Christmas Tree represents the Christmas holiday and the Jack-o’-Lantern represents Halloween. The colorful lanterns called the ‘Fanoos’ represent the month of Ramadan.
They are famous for their intricate designs and the beautiful details on their glass and metal exterior. Some are hung on balconies and doors while some are lit inside the homes.
Some are even placed at the entrance doors, increasing the beauty of the night with their dim lights.
The beauty of Ramadan
There is something absolutely special about the way that the air lightens and the nights turn brighter, much livelier. The days carry a wave of serenity within them and the hearts feel like they have found their purpose in life.
This is the beauty of Ramadan when not only does religion come alive but culture awakens as well. As Muslims all over the world, indulge in the centuries-old customs, adding to the convivial spirit of Ramadan.
This Ramadan, may Muslims all over the world find their lost selves once again.
May the world be free of evil, corruption, diseases, wars, and terror. And at the end of the month, may we all come out better Muslims than we were when Ramadan began.
// Muslims around the world