Ramzan (or Ramadan) is the name of the Islamic month when Prophet Mohammad obtained the Koran. Muslims consider this month as sacred. Ramadan is referred as pillar of Islam frequently and appears to be a description of its importance.
Moon sighting controversy continues in the Islamic world
Islamic months begin (or end) on the sighting of new moon. There are confusions and controversies around determining the beginning of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr throughout the world. The confusion is because of the interpretation based Islamic tradition (Hadiths). For example, the Ramadan of 2014 was concluded on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in different regions. In Pakistan alone, Peshawar celebrated Eid on Monday and Islamabad celebrated on Tuesday. In Nigeria, it was celebrated on Saturday. Scientifically, the moon sighting times/days may be different depending on the latitude, and longitude. Based on the moon sighting definition, the exact timing of the sighting may be determined well in advance for each locality. But, today, Muslims celebrate the Eid based on decision of moon sighting committees, which operate on community practices. The adhoc and unscientific practices of clergy to determine sighting of moon was criticized as madness by the Daily Times [Report] . Some Muslims even miss celebrating Eid in the ensuing confusion of moon sighting. Clergy climb the rooftops, and sight the moon with their bare eyes. This moon tracking happens everywhere in the high skies, in the presence of dark clouds and during rains. The moon-sighting committees operate, in many circumstances, on political and personal agendas. The moon sighting in Chile, Argentina, and Guyana was on Sunday and Saudi Arabian clergy sighted the moon on Monday. In Nigeria, the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Sa’ad announced the moon sighting which was not accepted by the Moon sighting committee appointed by him [Report]. Pakistan continuing the practice of celebrating Eids on two different days as moon-sighting committee of Qasim Ali Khan Mosque in Peshawar, headed by Mufti Shahabudin Popalzai announced the moon sighting on Sunday night. During this confusion of moon sighting, some Muslims even miss the Eid day celebration.
Limited Fasting – Restraint during the day
All adult healthy Muslims are obligated not to take food, not to smoke, and not to have sex during the daylight hours for a month. However, obligation is limited to the duration after the sunrise and before the sunset and is actually a limited duration fasting. Typically, the morning meal is heavy to help completion of all activities throughout the day. The evening meal can begin after the sunset and can continue throughout the night. Both of the meals during Ramzan fasting, contains rice, meat, fruit, vegetables, and sweets and other food items including beef.
The elderly, sick, and mentally ill are exempt from the fasting. Pregnant women, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns are also exempted. People who miss the fasting are expected to compensate by feeding the poor and unfortunate. In 2014, some of the football players playing the world cup were exempted from fasting – and some of them might have taken the fasting after the completion of the world cup.
Civic Life during Ramadan
In many Islamic states, the time on the roads before breaking the daily fast is known as ‘Ramadan rush hour’. After a long day of fasting, typical daily activities such as driving or shopping would lead to the rush hour. In the United Arab Emirates, Road Safety UAE has launched a set of guidelines to encourage public safety on the roads during Ramadan. Guidelines include safety precautions such as wearing seat belts. Dubai’s police force increases the number of street patrols during ‘Ramadan rush hour’ in an effort to combat aggressive driving.
In India, Muslims are busy in the mornings and evenings on streets. Mosques start announcing time from 3am onwards so that people can get up and complete their meals by sunrise and prepare for morning prayers. Repeated announcements through horn loudspeakers help Muslim residents. After the morning meals and the prayers, the teenagers as well as adults start playing games on the roads and other public places in large groups. This continues, in many occasions, until evenings. The extra time available from the beginning of the fasting and to the time of work or school would be utilized in these activities. Evening activities in mosques continue, on specific days, until late night and during this period, young and not so religious Muslims are seen in streets playing games and chatting.
Of course, the early morning wakeup calls, late evening programmes, playing on streets disturb non-Muslim residents of the localities. Police departments receive calls for help to reduce these disturbances. Coalition against Noise pollution, Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai and Bangalore has published a Ramzan oath for devout Muslims to observe the partial fasting in peace and harmony with the neighbors.
Privilege spree in India
Indian politicians are eager to provide special privileges during the month of Ramzan facilitating limited fasting. Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) president has urged lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung to ensure uninterrupted power and water supply in the Muslim-dominated areas of the city during Ramzan. The Pradesh Congress has also expressed its concern to the Lt Governor in a telephonic talk with him. The Assam Government employees belonging to the Muslim community were allowed to leave office at 4.30 PM, half an hour earlier than the scheduled time, during the month of Ramzan. Telangana State Minorities Commission has assured the prisoners of the Central Prison, Chanchalguda that it would provide them with prayer mats, caps and fruits during the month of Ramzan. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Shri Virbhadra Singh released the calendar of Ramzan the Holy Month of Muslim brethren beginning from 30 June. Express Distribution and Supply Chain major Gati Ltd has collaborated with GI certified Haleem specialist Pista House to make Hyderabadi Haleem available in selected cities across India. This service is currently available daily in selected areas in Delhi NCR, Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad and twice in one week in Coimbatore and Vishakhapatnam. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has announced allocation of 4,500 tonne rice free of cost to mosques for preparing gruel consumed to break the fast during Ramzan season.