The holy month of Ramadan is a significant time for Muslims everywhere, and this year it starts on the 18th-19th of June. All cultures have a different way of spending Ramadan.
Here is the Sri Lankan way of celebrating the month of fasting!
In general, Muslims who are planning to fast would wake up early in the morning, perhaps between 3-4am, and have a meal (Subuh) that would sustain them for the day. Before the crack of dawn, Suhur should be over and afterwards people usually head for their morning prayers.
The daytimes of Ramadan are usually more relaxed in the Muslim communities. As they are fasting for the most part of the day, people do not generally carry out a lot of heavy lifting or hard physical labour. Instead they occupy their daytime hours with prayers, and reciting the Holy Quran which sometimes they carry on into the night as well.
Young children do not normally fast, however once they reach the age of seven, they are encouraged by their parents and family to learn about the pillars of Islam, and to start praying regularly. At this age, you would see that children are quite enthusiastic about fasting, and may even attempt to fast even though they break the fast soon after.
Within households and family homes, games and fun activities are also held to pass the time away. You’ll see children and adults playing games such as carrom, cards and board games amongst other activities to keep themselves occupied until it is time to break their fasts!
Generally in tropical regions like ours, fasting goes on for 12-13 hours. The time for breaking fast is marked by the call of the prayer at Sunset (the Maghrib prayer). This is when everyone stops all that they’re doing and rushes indoors to break their fast.
Muslims take pride in preparing specially made dishes for Ramadan including short eats such as Pakoras and Samosas as well as Kanji— a porridge-like dish which is sometimes even made in mosques and distributed to the neighbouring homes. Tables laid out for breaking fast are always impressive and very tempting, and in a country as hot and humid as Sri Lanka, it is not surprising to find a number of fruit juices and refreshing drinks to quench your thirst!
Zakat is a form of charity where the able distribute food items or money to the poor and needy. It is also one of the five pillars of Islam, and a crucial part of the spirit of Ramadan, where Muslims are reminded of the hunger and poverty faced by others in the world.
The Celebration of Id Ul Fitr (Eid)
The month of Ramadan comes to an end with the celebration of Id Ul Fitr, which marks the completion of the 30 days of fasting. Id Ul Fitr, or Eid is a joyous occasion where Muslims exchange presents, cook a lot of great food and have a lot of family fun!
On the day of Eid, Muslims gather at mosques after sunrise to perform the Eid prayers. After praying and listening to the sermons, they greet each other and extend their well wishes. Afterwards, it is tradition to go home to a grand Eid lunch!
Important points to keep in mind:
First and foremost, if you are invited to a Muslim household, or if you happened to be at your friends’ house while they are fasting, try and refrain from eating or drinking in their presence, unless it’s time for breaking fast! It’s extremely rude—you wouldn’t want to see someone else gobbling away while you are starving, would you?
For Muslims, breaking their fast with some dates is a Sunnah—practised since the time of the Prophet Muhammad, so you’ll always see them reaching for the dates first! Go ahead and try them! They’re a sweet and nourishing fruit and you’ll definitely want more!
Be respectful, appreciate all cultures and savour their delicious food and you’re sure to have a great Ramadan!