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There are few things more sacred to a devout Muslim than the holy month of Ramzan. This is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the most significant, since it is month in which the holy Koran was revealed to mankind. The thirty days of Ramzan signify the thirty chapters of Koran.

Ramzan is the time for fasting or keeping roza, as there is a promise of salvation for those who fast during this month. Fasting is one of the duties which has to be performed by a devout Muslim, just as he has to offer prayers, do charity, read the Koran and undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca. Ramzan is the time when he is able to perform all these acts.

The thought of fasting, without food and water, from day break to sunset for thirty days can be very daunting. But Parveen Shaikh, a teacher at Centre Point School, Katol Road, says that all devout Muslims are conditioned to it. “This is something inbuilt in us. Actually, barring those who are ill or pregnant women, every Muslim above the age of 10 years keeps the rozas. Of course, the weather is a factor, since the month of Ramzan keeps advancing by ten days every year. It is easier in winters, when the days are short, and difficult in the months of May and June.”

The fast is usually broken at sunset with dates or some fruit, as it is light on the system. But in Islam not only fasting but helping someone break a fast by offering food also gets holy blessings.

Ramzan is not just about abstinence from food and water. It is a fast for all the senses too. It is about abstinence from all kinds of entertainment. One has to be particular about what one sees, hears or reads during this month.
Nagpur Municipal Corporation ( NMC)) Deputy Commissioner Rizwan Siddiqui describes it best. “The rozas are a means of self cleansing and these restrictions are to inculcate a sense that you are being watched. When that fear is there, people adhere to the rules and restrictions in a better way. Simply put, Islam means `I Surrender to Law of Allah and Mohammad`, and during this holy month the Almighty keeps away all the evils to create a conducive and comfortable environment for fasting and offering prayers.”

Even as the layman is aware of the sehri and Iftars, which are meals before sunrise and after sunset respectively, there is a strict regimen of prayers too that is to be followed. A roza cannot be complete without offering prayers or namaaz five times during the day. Many Muslims also try to read the entire Koran during this period.
Elaborating on this, GS Khwaja, superintendent epigraphist at ASI says, “When there is a drive to do something, it is possible to achieve it. Unlike more visible deeds, roza is an act which is an understanding between the one who keeps it and his god. We believe that if we observe the roza correctly, god will pardon all our sins before the Eid ki namaaz. Iss liye iss ibadat ka darja bhaut bulund hai (This is why these prayers are considered so important).”

He adds, “There is also this belief that one night in the entire month is special and if we pray on that night it amounts to offering 1,000 prayers. Each one of us has to discover that night as there is no fixed date for it. Thus, we all make it a point to pray in the hope of discovering this sacred moment. As far as reading of Koran goes, during Ramzan, the Isha ki namaaz, which is the last prayer of the day, is supplemented by an additional hour of prayer called Tarawih. The Hafiz recites one chapter of the holy Koran each day and the others hear it. This goes on for all thirty days, covering all the thirty chapters.”

Charity forms a very significant part of Islam, and so the Eid which falls at the end of this holy month is called Id-ul Fitr, fitr meaning charity. It is also believed that any good deed done during this period is seventy times more blessed than when performed otherwise.

Islam says that every Muslim has to give away at least 2.5% of the value of his wealth to the needy and the poor this act is called the zakat. But Fitra, the act of giving to the needy is to be performed during this month before the Eid ki namaz is offered. Acting collector M.A.H. Khan puts it as `an effort to bring some equality in the society through self control and sacrifice`. “When we fast, we consume less and forego a lot many things to which we are habituated. This ultimately saves scarce resources. Then, this practice of giving the fitra to the needy during Ramzan helps to bring about a social balance. It promotes the sentiment of sharing, which is elementary to any civil society,” he says.

Source : The Times of India

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