The most holy month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan the Generous, will start today 1st April after sunset. In the old time the beginning was decided by the viewing of the new moon, but nowadays the tendency is to rely on precise scientific calculations.
It is advisable anyway to follow the starting day of the community you belong to, so you can also celebrate together the final celebration Eid al Fitr. The first tarawiih prayer starts the night before the first day of Ramadan.
The sunnah requires to observe the ritual fasting of the holy month of Ramadan: it is one of the five pillars of Islam and the dervishes follow it. The invitation is to observe it, to experience it; it is not only a matter of belief, a thousand blessings will come down on the ones who keep it. Ramadan is a sweet experience, real, that may offer a taste of reality. All the sufis follow it.
It is not just a fasting from food and beverages during the day, but it is also an undertaking to refrain from actions and thoughts that are not oriented toward the light. Fasting opens a thousand doors, it offers more time for themselves and for the practice and allows you to spend your day as much as possible towards God. The divine rules must be taken as they are; wanting to change them to adapt them to your own life style, or criticize them, it represents a very unwise attempt to assume the position of God.
(See Post: Why do we fast?)
To follow the fasting makes it possible to savour the sweetness of the brotherhood. Ramadan is the month of the jamaat, the community. Being together, to invite each others, to pray with our brothers and sisters every night is a blessing. In the East at sunset, when the time comes when we break the fasting, people prepare along the road huge tables to which invites, almost dragging the passersby. The presence of many guests for dinner is a celebration and a blessing during that month of commitment and concentration. Even just cooking for those who are observing the fast, brings great spiritual benefits. When Ramadan ends is always very sad. During this month, the blessings are infinitely superior to its hardness.
The inhabitants of Heaven do not eat: there they do not need it, they only feed themselves with the divine light. With our fasting we imitate that position during the hours of light. Then you will automatically enter into contact with celestial beings, because doing the same things they do, our vibrations become familiar to them and they will be willing to approach.
It’s a spiritual position that reminds us of the substance we are made of: light. The original food of the men is the Light of God reminding us the saints of our way, and in this month we do just that: we take nourishment only from light during the day, to remember, to live, to enjoy and rejoice in this truth. This means abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sexual intercourses during daylight hours.
In terms of soul, Ramadan is the fastest time. It is the month of decisions, because everything appears brighter and simple. Ramadan is the divine announcement that Allah wants to offer us gifts: His mercy, His blessings. It is a month that puts things in order and allows us big openings. It is an invitation to close for a month during the day to the world and what it represents: food, sex, useless thoughts. It is also the month of generosity, it is mandatory to donate to those who have less than us.
In our way it is possible to fast at other times of the year: Mondays, Thursdays, the first and last day of the month, as well as during the three days near the full moon (see Article: THE FULL MOON AND THE DERVISH). If we follow the complete program, Allah will take care for us in a complete manner.
The three most sacred months of the Islamic lunar year are Rajab, Shaban and Ramadan. Rajab is the month of Allah, Shaban is the month of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, Ramadan is the month of the jamaad, the community, and we try as much as possible to stay together, break the fast together and pray tarawih, the evening prayer of Ramadan together.
Ramadan is the month of fasting dedicated to the concentration on the divine through prayer, practice and pure intention. We try to ‘fast’ also from evil thoughts, not meritorious actions and anger. It is said that you lose the merits of the hajj, the sacred pilgrimage if you get angry during that time.
Of course those who are sick or have to take medicines it is good that they refrain from fasting if their body cannot take it, but for those who can do it, it is always possible to fast and take medicines with a small sip of water. The women during the days of the cycle can neither pray nor fast nor touch the Quran, they will have to recover the lost days. For pregnant women, nursing mothers it is highly dependent on the their physical conditions, the best is always to ask to the Sheikh case by case. Travelers are exempt from fasting, it is sunnah, but if you want to keep the fasting it is also possible. Ramadan is followed scrupulously also by the Muslim populations of the most hot deserts and countries of the world, and being our calendar based on the moon, it moves backwards of about ten days a year, being the lunar month of 27-30 days, so it may happen also in full summer. The support of the practice of millions and millions of people are fasting with us you will experience in a tangible way.
It is good to eat something substantial (a soup is always perfect) and drink a lot before the morning prayer: it is a quick meal based on what you like and is called Suhoor, while Iftar is the breaking of the fast just after the sunset, after you hear the call to the prayer and before to perform the evening prayer maghrib.
Iftar is a time of happiness and refreshment after experiencing the pangs of hunger and thirst. It is usually broken with dates and in many cultures a light soup with bread or small side dishes. Breaking the fast is followed immediately by the evening prayer. In many parts of the world, breaking fast is observed in congregation in mosques and homes.
The Prophetic etiquette of breaking fast: three rutabs (moist dates), or else tamr (dry dates), or else water, mentioning Allah, using the right hand, stating the du`a that fasting was for Allah and breakfast with his rizq (provision), and asking Allah aid in fasting, night-prayer, lowering the eyes, and guarding the tongue in Ramadan.
The following two du`as (invocation) should be recited after breaking the fast:
Allahumma laka sumtu wa `alaa rizqika aftartu
O Allah! For You have I fasted and upon Your sustenance have I broken my fast. [Abu Dawud]
Dhahab az zamaa’u wab tallatil urooqu wa thabat al-ajru Insha-Allah
The thirst has vanished, the veins have been wetted and the reward is established – Insha-Allah. [Abu Dawud]
The Prophet (s) said: “Whosoever fasts experiences two joys. He is joyful when he breaks his fast, and is joyful because of his fasting when he meets his Lord.” [Sahih Muslim]
“When evening approaches from this side (east) and the day retreats from this side (west) and the sun has set, the one who is fasting breaks his fast.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
“Break your fast with a date, or with water because it is pure.” [Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi]
The Messenger of Allah, praise and peace be upon him, said: “My nation will remain in goodness as long as they break the fast as soon as it is due.” [Muslim]
It is offensive and unhealthy to stuff the stomach with food after fasting. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Enough for a human being to have luqaymat (=from 3 to 9 mouthfuls) that prop up his spine and, if he must have more [in his stomach], then one third of food, one third of water, and one third of air.”
Out of respect for the mosques and those who attend them among people, jinn, and angels foods that cause bad breath (such as garlic and onions), belching and gas should not be consumed.
It is not easy to determine in advance the exact date of the start of Ramadan it depends on the watching of the very first crescent of the new moon. In general it is anyway good to follow the start date set by the local community.
It’s very important to make a clear the intention of fasting when you start.
At the time of maghrib, adhan (the call to prayer) is called, you break the fast with 3 dates and then tea, water and sweets, fruits, etc., you pray immediately maghrib and then you can have dinner.
During Ramadan, it is a tradition to keep the little lights lit in the evening before it is dark, they bring blessings, they give a celebration feeling, transmit joy and attract benevolent spirits.
For the times of the prayers in your town, see: www.islamicfinder.org
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, strongly recommended to observe these practices during Ramadan:
1 . Make a light meal before dawn (Suhoor).
2 . Break the fast at sunset with iftar: traditionally three dates and some water just after sunset.
3 . Make light meals as much as possible, because, as the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says the worst thing a man can do is to fill his stomach;
4 . Recite the tarawiih (*) prayer every night;
5 . Visit the brothers and the sisters, intensify the practices of solidarity;
6 . Increase the study and recitation of the Qur’an;
7 . Exert the utmost in patience and humility;
8 . Be cautious in using the senses, the mind and, above all, the tongue; abstain from idle chatter and gossip.
(*) During all Ramadan we recite the prayer of Tarawih every night, joined with Isha, the evening prayer. It is a prayer of 20 rakat (or 8 if you travel), carried out in a particular way. Of course it is recommended to pray tarawih in the community or in the mosque.
During Ramadan you should recite all the holy Quran, or at least one third. If you go to the mosque for Tarawih prayers you will be able to listen to more or less long recitations of the Quran.
If you cannot really do fasting but still want to be part of the atmosphere of Ramadan in some way, you can remember in your prayers and support those who are doing the fasting or also cook for them. This gives great merits.
Traditionally, the first ten days of the holy month of Ramadan is a time of mercy (Rahma), the second decade of forgiveness (maghfirah) and purification in which it is good to recite many salawat, the praises of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.), and the third decade is a period of perfection dedicated to retreat, ‘the freedom from hell fire’ (‘itqun mina an-nar).
Of course the ideal in the latter period would be able to stay at home in a sort of mini-retreat (itikaaf), to speak as little as possible, refrain from unnecessary thoughts, and focus on the prayers at least five times a day. Who can not afford this ideal condition, may simply continue his everyday’s life but closing the door to chatting, especially to speak bad about the others, and to act bad. It’s always good to make clear the intention to keep oneself pure from all this before starting.
In the last decade we celebrated the night of Laylatul Qadr, the most important night of the Islamic calendar, the Night of Destiny (literally the night of honor and nobility, predestination, closeness) of spiritual bliss, the powerful all-night vigil that is worth a thousand months of prayers in which countless angels descend upon us not to leave the smallest space uncovered on earth. It’s the most powerful night of the year when Allah commands the angels to write our fate for the coming year, it is the night of forgiveness, blessings, and it’s secret, you have to feel it when it comes. Even the master can not reveal when it is. Of course, the official night that is celebrated together is anyway the 27th night of Ramadan, but the real one can be one of the odd nights of the last decade, so the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th night. It’s up to us to feel the right one, but it is usually so powerful that it is hard to miss. One sign is that you feel incredibly tired.
It is the night in which the revelation of the holy Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, started. It is a night of prayer, of recitation and listening of the Qur’an, of connection. These are the directions valid in general for all: to perform the prayers, as you know them, and trying to stay as much as possible in sajda (prostration) asking forgiveness.
You can pray from 20 to 100 rakat, do the dhikr, recite the 99 Names and anything else you feel may connect you, even to look at a picture of our master can help in establishing the connection.
It is said that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when asked about what prayer to recite in this sacred night, said:
“Allahumma innaka afuwwun Karimun tuhib – bul af -wa – afu anni”
(O Allah, You are the One who grants forgiveness from sins, and loves to forgive. Please forgive me)
To recite Astaghfar as much as possible:
“Astaghfirullah hallazi la-ila-ha illa huwal Hayyul Qayyumu wa atu-bu ilaihi “
( I seek forgiveness from Allah, the Almighty, there is no God except Him, the Existing One and the Eternal, to Him I shall return)
Ramadan is also the month of generosity and you should give zakat, the offer, one of the five pillars of Islam together with fasting, the sacred pilgrimage, prayer and the testimony of faith. Zakat is the fortieth part of the surplus of what you need to live for a year, and must be given. Everyone should do it. Then there is instead Zakat ul Fitr which everyone has mandatory to offer even if it he the poorest in the world, and corresponds to the price of a kilo of wheat. Today we can simplify donating ten-20 euros according to your possibilities, that should be given for each member of your family. You can donate them to whoever you want, usually a needy family that you know, or to concentrate them on a project.
Eid al Fitr
It is then the big celebration for the last day of Ramadan in which you cannot fast.
It is good to observe the day that is celebrated in your own local community. The day of Eid you try not to eat before the prayer. You try to be generous in giving to those who need it (zakat) and you perform a special prayer that you can follow in the nearest mosque in the morning at different times, usually 8:30, 10:30, 11:30. It’s the most important celebration of the year. Traditionally you wear nice and fresh clothes, the men use perfumes, and if possible it is celebrated in community, and then the lunch is with the brothers and sisters exchanging small gifts.
After breaking the fast on the Eid day, then you may fast for the next six days. It is sunnah, that is a habit of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Of course the following six days fasting will not be easy but it is an act of love, it will be sweet.
Traditionally, they sacrifice a sheep or a mutton, or you may contribute with a sum of money to those who will do it for you and then will give you some of the meat to share with the poor people. It is recommended to arrive in time to the mosque and to walk back home following a different way than the one made coming. It is necessary the complete ablution before prayer. It is nice to pray Eid outside the mosque, on the carpets arranged for that purposed.
Then you should also recover the days of fasting that you missed during Ramadan. There is time until next Ramadan.