Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #25 – Ramadan Celebrations

In a special edition of Imagining Islamic Aesthetics we will look into a subject not a in a physical way of Islamic art representation, neither does it shows actually artistic values, but rather something of cultural value – Islamic celebration of Ramadan – just the thing for we are in the holy month after all.

Ramadan, or spelled Ramadhan, Ramdan or Ramzan/Ramazan (Usually in Turkey) Arabic: رمضان‎ is the ninth month in the Islamic Hijri calendar. It is the time where Muslims observe one of the five pillars of Islam ; fasting, from sunrise to sunset.

Why is the month is so special not just because of the fasting, something most western minds cannot wrap around where one would deprive him or herself food, drinks or martial relationships, but because all the special things that can only be observed in this particular month – the early pre-dawn meal Sahur, the breaking of fast Ifthar, the special Tarawih and Witr prayers that can only be performed in the month.

Muslims of different cultures and countries celebrate the holy month is different ways unique to each…and this is what I want to bring forward in this edition. Unlike other Imagining Islamic Aesthetics posts, this wont have its own follow-up post.

Photo: Przemyslaw "Blueshade" Idzkiewicz.

A mosque in Mohandessin during the month of Ramadan, Cairo, Egypt.  Ramadan is decided by the sighting of a new moon, since the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle. There is some confusion and debate amongst the Muslim community and the scholars of how the Hilal (Arabic for crescent moon) should be observed and hence deciding on the start of Ramadan – using just the naked eye or using calculations and astronomical equipments.

Author - Cem Topç

Blue Mosque during Ramadan (Sultanahmet, Istanbul/TR). There is two meals to be have for Muslims in the fasting month of Ramadan ; Sahur, the pre-dawn meal and Iftar, the breaking of fast taken at dusk. In both of the meals it is recommended by the Prophet himself to eat dates “in odd numbers”, usually in threes. When there is no dates available to the person who is going to fast or going to break the fast, he recommends drinking water “because it is pure”. He also said that it is preferable to end the meals with a glass of milk. These recommendations actually have nutritional significance – the sweetness of the dates can provide some one who is going to fast with energy and replenish one’s energy level after half a day of fasting.

Iftar in Patterson, New Jersey, US. Iftar is a joyful occasion to be had for someone who is fasting, both physically, for he is replenishing his energy after half a day of no consumption of food or water, and spiritually, for he had completed yet another day of fulfilling his religious duty. As the Prophet had said ” There is two happiness for the one who fasts in the month of Ramadan – the happiness when he breaks his fast and the joy of confronting God because he had completed His commandment”. Iftar is usually shared between family members, however it is also common that a community shared the Iftar together, most often in a mosque, as an act of charity because usually it is funded by individuals or groups.

Some veterans at the mosque from the 1980s war praying in a mosque in Iran. There are special prayers that is done in the month of Ramadan, namely the Tarawih prayers which meant “to be at ease” in Arabic, since it is to be done in a relaxed and not rushed fashion, and Witr, meaning “odd, in numbers” since it is performed in two parts of two rakaats (repetition of certain positions of prayers) and one rakaat. It is done during the nighttime, after the daily Isya’ prayers. It is most often supplemented with reading of the Qur’an afterwards. All these are done to maximize the spiritual profits the month have to offer.

posted to Flickr by Sajith T S

Eid crowds by the Charminar in Hyderabad, India. After the Ramadan month comes to a close, began the celebrations of the Eid-el-Fitr, the celebration of victory by the successful Muslims over gluttony that is managing to complete the fasting in Ramadan. It is a day where fasting is forbidden by God as a gift for the Muslims, and celebrated with a special Eid prayer and visiting friends and families and asking for forgiveness with each other, as well as visiting the graves of loved ones to offer prayers in remembrance of those who had passed away earlier.

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