17 May 2018 | Various Sources | Hawkins Bay Dispatch
The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, which means scorching heat or dryness.Fasting is fard (obligatory) for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, travelling, are elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, chronically ill or menstruating
16 May 2018 | Staff | The New Arab
Millions around the world will begin the fasting month of Ramadan on Thursday, according to religious leaders in various Muslim-majority states.
Saudi Arabia and other large Muslim nations, including Indonesia, declared Ramadan would not begin on Wednesday based on a customary moon-sighting methodology. That means the dawn-to-dusk fasting is expected to begin on Thursday.
Muslims shun food and even water during the month, which this year falls on especially long summer days for those who live in northern countries.
Fasting is meant to bring the faithful closer to God and remind them of those less fortunate.
Fasting is considered one of the five pillars of Islam. During the day, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, sex, gossip and cursing, and are encouraged to focus on meditative acts like prayer, reading the Quran and charity. There are exceptions to fasting for children, the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, and people travelling.
Because Muslims follow a lunar calendar, countries often declare the start of Ramadan a day or two apart. Traditionally, countries announce if their moon-sighting council spots the Ramada crescent in the evening before fasting begins. The news of Thursday’s fast was made on Saudi state TV and in other countries.
In many Muslim majority countries, the wealthy distribute food and money to the poor, with mosques and volunteers passing out drinks and foods to passersby in need of aid or simply to break their fast.
Ramadan is also a time for feasting with family and friends. Nighttime is buzzing in many Muslim majority countries in Ramadan, and millions watch Ramadan television specials.
Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr.
16 May 2018 | Salim Al Afifi | Times of Oman
Ramadan is a much-awaited celebration for Muslims around the world, who seek rewards from the Almighty and love the peaceful vibe that comes with it. It is a month full of warmth and interesting traditions that bring about good changes of the heart.
Ramadan is an opportunity for individuals to rejoice and be more spiritual, while creating memorable moments with loved ones. As you get your heart ready to receive the light of this month, I would like to shed light on how Ramadan is welcomed and celebrated here in Oman.
In the Holy Quran, there is a verse that explains the importance of this month: “O Muslims! A noble and generous month has come to you. A month in which a night is better than one thousand months and this month is the month of charity, patience, and mercy. In this month, the gates of Paradise become wide open and the gates of Hell are shut, and the devils are chained…” (An-Nasa’i).
As the verse suggests, there is something spiritually unparalleled and quite peaceful about Ramadan that makes for a pleasant experience. This is the case even for my expatriate friends who seem to enjoy every bit of it and even take part in some of the traditions, which makes it an exciting month-long holy celebration.
How do we welcome Ramadan?
The atmosphere begins to change a week in advance, when parents tweak their reading habits and focus on religious books, bring out Ramadan-only recipes for the whole family to enjoy, and, most importantly, give up grudges and other bad habits that we, humans, tend to latch on to.
As the first day approaches, a sense of calm descends, and mosques become filled with Muslims who race to catch the Taraweh prayers, performed only during Ramadan.
Unlike other sacred seasons, there aren’t many decorations that scream Ramadan in an Omani household. There are no lanterns hung on walls around the house, or hanging light tucked in trees, but the ambience and our attitudes change drastically to become more empathetic and positive with the drive to do good.
In Oman, the traditions take us back to the olden ages, when modern means of living were slightly on the lower end of the spectrum, but retain a great deal of fun. Let’s explore them.
Ramadan is the one month that brings families together, especially in today’s society when everyone is busy on their own. After work, folks drive straight home to be with the family. They exchange conversation about religion, and have friendly and useful discussion about Islam, culture, and life in general.
After Iftar and prayers, some people gather with their loved ones for a much-needed tales-from-the-past, told by grandparents who are quite the imaginative storytellers. And sometimes, parents discuss interesting topics on religion and educate (or in some cases remind) the kids about their religion and culture.
Amid the talks and life lessons, you won’t find a single bit of gossip, as it is a sinful habit.
Some people enjoy the company of their friends, so they head out in packs and meet at their favourite spot for a cup of kahwa and a good, gossip-free conversation.
This is the most exciting part about Ramadan: The mouthwatering food that comes out of Omani kitchens. Though doctors keep urging us to adopt a healthy lifestyle, it’s difficult to go through Ramadan without indulging in some delicious treats.
Popular dishes include Thareed, a traditional Arabian dish made from pieces of bread in a meat or chicken broth. It is also popular in other Middle Eastern countries. Mashed dates, Asabe Mariyam (deep-fried, cheese-filled pastry), Luqaimat (sweet dumplings), and Khaliat Nahal (honeycomb dessert) are also some of the Ramadan favourites.
One of my absolute favourite traditions is sharing the food with neighbours. Every day, interesting and delicious dishes are exchanged between neighbours as an act of kindness. The tradition used to be practised daily, throughout the year, but now it remains widely practised during Ramadan.
If having a talk with family and friends is not top of your list of things to do during Ramadan, then you might want to opt for other activities, such as volunteering for a cause.
There are countless charity groups and organisations spread across town. From charities that lend a helping hand to the needy, to those focused on cleaning the streets of Muscat and taking care of orphans.
As you may already know, the rewards are doubled during Ramadan, which makes volunteering a favourite activity among the residents of Oman. And, it brings a sense of purpose to one’s heart (at least for me).
Aside from charitable work, many gentlemen enjoy a friendly match that stretches till midnight, or relax at a cafe near their homes to kill time while waiting for Suhoor (a meal consumed at dawn during Ramadan). Women enjoy meeting their friends for coffee or a quick exercise session, too.
Ramadan is that one month that we wish lasted longer, as it brings a unique atmosphere that is cherished by Omanis and celebrated by expatriates. Let the light in and enjoy a month full of grace and lots of love. — email@example.com
16 May 2018 | Kaamil Ahmed | The Middle East Eye
16 May 2018 | Sami Rahman | The New Arab
Every year, as the month of Ramadan arrives, my colleagues will ask with eager curiosity what fasting entails and why I do it. I’ll happily answer their questions as it allows me to impart some knowledge on Islam and about my beliefs and lifestyle.
However, not everyone’s reaction is the same. Here are some of the most common comments that get thrown at me. If you know of a Muslim co-worker who’s fasting this year please avoid saying any of the following:
I don’t know how you can fast, I could NEVER do that:
Although this may come across as a compliment, the unnecessary praise makes me feel a little uncomfortable.
Fasting is not the same as living through a drought or in poverty. I’m fortunate enough to be able to eat a nutritious and filling meal at the end of every single day. Yes, fasting requires a certain amount of discipline, but like dieting and exercising, anyone can do, if they try.
Surely you can drink water though, right?
A quick Google search on fasting during Ramadan will reveal that no, you can’t drink water, yet this is the most frequently asked question.
My answer to this is usually met with gasps of horror and admiration. It’s worth remembering that Muslims only fast during the daylight hours, so I won’t dehydrate myself or die.
That’s not safe – you’re starving yourself!
This is probably the most condescending remark because it’s said so flippiantly. In fact, there are numerous health benefits of fasting, if you do it correctly.
Take me for instance – I’ve been doing this for 20 years and guess what, I’m still alive and healthy(ish)!
Why don’t you just eat? No one will know…
Statements like this undermine the sacrifices that millions of Muslims make when they fast. The reward of fasting lies solely on the fact that it is an act that only God will know about, as you can easily pretend to fast in front of others.
Hence, eating secretly makes a mockery of the entire concept. Stop trying to be the devil on my shoulder – it won’t work.
I feel so bad eating in front of you!
Bearing in mind that most non-Muslims don’t believe in the evil eye, this is the most puzzling statement of all. Please don’t eat your desk lunch secretly in fear that a starving Muslim will yank it out of your hand – they’re fasting not starving lions.
You’re so lucky, you’re going to lose so much weight!
Yes, there are studies to show fasting can help aid weight loss but that’s not why we do it. A seemingly positive statement like this might sound fine but again, it undermines the sanctity of Ramadan by implying there are only superficial benefits to doing it.
What you could say instead…
Why do Muslims fast?
I really enjoy discussing Ramadan and the wisdom behind fasting and welcome genuine questions about it. It’s only through conversations like these that Muslims can educate others and remove stereotypes and presumptions.
Do you need any support during this month?
Fasting at work can be hard, especially if you’re the only Muslim in the team so by offering support you are taking off some of the load.
What are you going to eat tonight?
There’s nothing a fasting person loves more than to talk about food. Chances are they’ve been daydreaming about the iftar meal from the moment that got into the office so they’ll be more than happy to indulge you with their meal plans.
Sami Rahman is a freelance writer based in London.
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