Ramadan is the important period of one month for all Muslims throughout the world. Hari Raya Puasa
is the most significant celebration for Muslims as it signifies the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The celebration is determined by sighting of the new moon on the day, before the next month on the Muslim calendar, Syawal. The words ‘Hari Raya‘ mean 'day of celebration.'
Ramadan is the name of the one-month fasting period when Muslims fast for a period of almost 12 hours.
Ramadan is the month that the Quran was first sent down as guidance to the people. The Month of Ramadan is also when it is believed the Holy Quran "was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation." Around 610 A.D., a caravan trader named Muhammad took to wandering the desert near Mecca (in today's Saudi Arabia) while thinking about his faith. One night a voice called to him from the night sky. It was the angel Gabriel, who told Muhammad he had been chosen to receive the word of Allah. In the days that followed, Muhammad found himself speaking the verses that would be transcribed as the Qur'an. At many mosques during Ramadan, about one thirtieth of the Qur'an is recited each night in prayers known as tarawih. In this way, by the end of the month the complete scripture is recited. Muslims practice sawm, or fasting, for the entire month of Ramadan. This means that they may eat or drink nothing, including water, while the sun shines. Fasting is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam.
As part of their Islam religion Muslims have 5 duties they must perform, called the Five Pillars of Faith
The duty to recite the creed: "There is nothing worthy of worship save Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God"
The duty to worship the One God in prayer five times each day
The duty to distribute alms and to help the needy
The duty to keep the Fast of Ramadan
The duty to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime
During the Fast of Ramadan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. In the evening following the iftar it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning
According to the Holy Quran:
One may eat and drink at any time during the night "until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night
Fasting serves many purposes. While they are hungry and thirsty, Muslims are reminded of the suffering of the poor. Fasting is also an opportunity to practice self-control and to cleanse the body and mind. And in this most sacred month, fasting helps Muslims feel the peace that comes from spiritual devotion as well as kinship with fellow believers.
The good that is acquired through the fast can be destroyed by five things -
- the telling of a lie
- denouncing someone behind his back
- a false oath
- greed or covetousness
These are considered offensive at all times, but are most offensive during the Fast of Ramadan.
When the fast ends (the first day of the month of Shawwal) it is celebrated for three days in a holiday called Hari Raya (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Gifts are exchanged. Friends and family gather to pray in congregation and for large meals. In some cities fairs are held to celebrate the end of the Fast of Ramadan.