Calendrical Ritual Of Ramadan: Description And Traditions

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“O you who believe! Observing al-sawm [the fasting] is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become al-muttaqoon [the faithful].” (Muhammed Muhsin Khan, Quran 2:183)

Religious sacred texts are the basis of religious traditions; used to educate the generations of adherents, whilst enabling the community to be aware of new interpretations. Similarly, religious rituals are a physical manifestation through word, symbolic action, sound and silence of religious beliefs (VCAA, 2015). People participate in rituals in order to be reminded, to reaffirm, to strengthen, to feel closer and more connected to their religious beliefs. The calendrical ritual of Ramadan maintains vital continuity of Islamic beliefs, as it is an individual religious experience that reaffirms the importance on adherents’ lives, whilst also becoming a highly positive and influential celebration in religiously pluralistic Australian society.

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The month of Ramadan is considered to be the most important time of the year for Muslims. Historically, Muslims believe the Holy Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad during the 29 nights of Ramadan. Prophet Muhammed stated: “It is the month, whose beginning is mercy, its middle, forgiveness, and its end, release from the fire of hell,” (Muslim World, 2018). The month of fasting, reflection, giving, devotion, and sacrifice promotes Muslims around the world to not eat or drink from dawn to sunset; proclaiming their blessings to Allah.

Van Gennep’s pre-liminal stage of a ritual is best described when a Muslim hears about the arrival of Ramadan. The first step an adherent follows is reflection among the purpose of Ramadan, as Allah Almighty does not need the fasting, the thirst, and hunger of a Muslim, rather, the personal good and the well-being of society (Islam in Australia, 2003). During the Quran’s introductory, Allah Almighty mentioned the purpose of fasting is to develop adherent’s faithfulness. With the arrival of Ramadan, a major change in the routine of adherents is present, thus, the objective of preparations allows adherents personal transit into the routine of Ramadan.

During the transitional aspect of Ramadan, there are three Ashras, where each has a separate ‘Dua’. In Islam, a Dua is a prayer of supplication or request; regarded as a profound act of worship (IslamiCity, 2019). The first Ashra, or ten days of Ramadan, are the days of Mercy, where Muslims recite the first Dua; “O! My Lord forgive and have mercy and you are the best of merciful,” (Muslim World, 2018). The objective of the first Ashra is practicing being merciful to other fellow beings by giving charity; the act that Allah admires the most. Treat fellow Muslims well by controlling your temper.

The next 10 days consist of time spent in forgiveness. Muslims must seek forgiveness from Almighty Allah and repent all of humanity’s sins. The Dua for the second Ashra is: “I ask forgiveness of my sins from Allah who is my Lord and I turn towards Him,” (Muslim World, 2018). It is a time where the forgiveness of Almighty Allah is at a peak; best for repentance.

The third Ashra is known as safety from hell, meaning Nijat. The end of Ramadan is about seeking in Allah from hellfire; which is the most important and superior objective. The Dua for the third Ashra of Ramadan is: “O Allah! Save me from the hellfire,” (Muslim World, 2018). Allah supplies all Muslims with the strength to seek His wisdom throughout Ramadam.

At the end of the month of fasting, when the new moon is sighted, a joyous surge runs through the hearts of all Muslims, in anticipation of one of the most joyful Eid festivals (Rashid Ahmad Chaudhry, 1988). Early in the morning, on Eid day, after taking a bath, all family members wear their best clothes, including children – as a symbol of loyalty to Allah. Perfume is worn by men and women alike, as it was the tradition of the Holy Prophet to wear perfume on such occasions.

The spirit of Eid is one of peace, forgiveness, and brotherhood. Gifts and greetings are exchanged as all animosities and ill feelings towards fellow beings are forgotten (Rashid Ahmad Chaudhry, 1988). However, while Eid is an occasion for joy and happiness, it is certainly not an occasion to indulge in foolishness, overeating, and mere pursuit of pleasure. The main purpose is always to seek the pleasure of God Almighty by glorifying Him and rendering thanks to Him for having enabled adherents to perform their duties.

Ramadan, or fasting, is a vital part and one of the five pillars of Islamic beliefs. The month of Ramadan is known by Muslims as “Blessed Ramadan” because it is the time in which they believe that the Quran was revealed, and Muhammad stated that the gates of heaven are opened. According to the Quran, fasting is solely for God’s sake; therefore, he will reward it how he sees fit in this world and the next. Muhammad said that in the first ten days of Ramadan, Allah’s mercy descends on believers; in the next ten days, his forgiveness is showered on them; while, in the final ten days, immunity from hell is promised. It is a time for Muslims to exercise forgiveness and patience and to think of the less fortunate – empathy with the poor, feeding them, and giving daily charity. Muslims hasten to feed fasting neighbors at the time of Eid, in order to gain God’s blessings. The meal is supposed to be simple yet nutritious, as adherents are forbidden to overindulge.

Mohammad Hassan Khalil, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Muslim Studies Program at Michigan State University, explains that the Quran states Ramadan fasting was prescribed for Muslims to be ever-conscious of Allah. He writes, “By abstaining from things that people tend to take for granted [such as water], it is believed, one may be moved to reflect on the purpose of life and grow closer to the creator and sustainer of all existence.”

The religious fabric of the world is changing. The increased migration has dispersed religious ideas and practices throughout the world. Contemporary changes in social attitudes have influenced perspectives and relationships with religion, and, the Australian population is no different.

According to Abdullah Saeed, author of Islam in Australia, Australians are becoming less religious and more religiously diverse. In contemporary society, Australia’s Muslim community is seeing the creation of a significant number of converts to Islam from European and other backgrounds. According to the Pew Research Centre, Islam is said to be the fastest-growing religion with the world’s population of 1.6 billion Muslims predicted to expand to 2.3 billion by 2050. Thus, with adherents set to grow at twice the rate of the total population, fasting and other spiritual practices during the month of Ramadan are becoming more significant events (SBS News, 2016).

This phenomenon is not entirely new, as interest in Islam goes back to the 1960s. When the first migrants began arriving after the Second World War, Australian cultural groups were divided along with their ‘original ethnic groups’; as Muslims were considered Arabs. Today, however, none of the religious traditions, nor the denominations within them, can be slotted into ‘ethnic’ or national boxes. This is because Australian Muslims have come from countries as diverse as Turkey and Lebanon, as well as parts of Africa including Somalia and Ethiopia.

A number of Australia’s northern neighbors are Muslim. Islam arrived in Southeast Asia as early as the beginning of the eighth-century common era (Islam in Australia, 2003). From then on, its growth and spread continued. By the twelfth century, Islam was an important religion in parts of what we call today Malaysia and Indonesia. According to Abdullah Saeed, Australia’s closest neighbor, Indonesia, is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. Significant Muslim minorities also exist in the Philippines, Thailand, and China.

Ethnic diversity has forced recognition of the reality that not all Australians consider England or Ireland as their cultural homeland. Thus, the religious makeup of Australia has changed gradually over the past 10 years. As a result, the latest national Census of 2016 revealed Australia is a religiously diverse nation with Islam the second most common religion. Religious increase spread across most non-Christian religions, mainly driven by Islam. Australia’s Muslim community was 1.7 percent of the population in 2006, although, had grown to 2.6 percent over the next 10 years (ABS 2016 Census: Religion, 2017). However, nearly a third of Australians reported in the 2016 Census they ‘had no religion’ (ABS 2016 Census: Religion, 2017).

Millions of Muslims around the world mark the calendrical ritual of Ramadan with a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting, and nightly feasts. The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind adherents of the suffering of those less fortunate. Thus, the ritual celebration of Ramadan is highly significant to Muslims as it connects people and develops self-appreciation for the perseverance and love Allah provides them.

In Australia, the post-war period brought a dramatic diversification of Australia’s ethnic and religious make-up. Many significant developments in Australia’s religious communities point to a strongly developing sense of interfaith dialogue and religious harmony from the time of the Second World War to the present.

Recent years have seen unprecedented combined action from Australia’s religious leaders and their communities to further interfaith dialogue. Those who initiate interfaith dialogue and events, seek to find peace and harmony among Australia’s diverse populous. The Islamic communities in Australia are continuously growing, and as a result, the religious calendrical of Ramadan is becoming a highly positive and influential celebration in religiously pluralistic Australian society.


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