The 9th month in the Islamic Calendar, Ramadan holds great religious reverence for Muslims all over the world. It is a month which marks the revelation of Quran to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) via the Angle Jibrael. The fast begins with dawn, more popularly known as Suhoor in Arabic and ends at sunset, referred to as Iftar.
During the fasting hours, which extend up to 16 hours in Pakistan and the UAE, and around 19 hours in the UK, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking food and water. As it turns out, it is a fast that goes beyond abstinence from food to one's self-denial of all wrong doing, including speaking ill of fellow Muslims, lying, cheating etc.
Although, routine activities resume in the Holy Month, a decrease in the number of working hours for schools, colleges, universities and offices alike is observed. This is to facilitate people so that they can devote maximum time to worship and prayers and make the most out of this blessed month.
Fasting is mandatory for all Muslims who are mentally sane and have a sound physical health, except those who are suffering from a physical or mental illness, expectant and lactating mothers, travelers, children who haven't approached their age of maturity and women who are undergoing their monthly cycle. Once their condition ceases to exist, all these people (except the ones suffering from a permanent illness) are required to compensate for the fasts they have missed.
The practice of fasting is age-old and common to different religions including Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism where it is used as a means of purifying the soul and warding off ill-health.
Businesses also experience a surge in demand for certain types of food particularly flour, oil, rice, fruits, dairy products etc. that are used to prepare meals at the time of keeping and breaking fast. According to a news article published in the Daily Mail, Ramadan has escalated sales in Britain's supermarkets by manifold. E-commerce businesses like Kaymu.pk and Apnafurniture.pk are also riding the Ramadan bandwagon by boasting Ramadan campaigns offering products such as home appliances, traditional wear, food items for Iftar and Sehr and so much more at the best possible deals.
Although, the fast ends at the time of Iftar, religious activities and prayers resume well after the Isha prayer at night, with the Taraveeh prayers' congregation held at mosques and also at people's houses. With the re-kindled religious fervor, a lot of emphasis is laid on paying Zakat and giving charity in the month of Ramadan, as the rewards of noble deeds are increased exponentially in this sacred month.
Ramadan witnesses a boisterous turnout of people who throng the mosque five time a day. This reflects a communal and spiritual reawakening, wherein Muslims residing in the same vicinity gather in unison and discipline for the congregational players. This also gives them the time to interact and socialize, which helps to strengthen the bond of brotherhood among Muslims. On a universal level, this translates into a sense of concord and harmony as Muslims all over the world, seek to purify their souls in submission to Allah, the Exalted.
The end of this holy month is indicated by Eid which is a reward from Allah for the relentless worship and persistent self-control of Muslims.
In hindsight, Ramadan is a time to reflect the countless blessings of Allah and think of ways in which we could be of benefit to the under- privileged classes of the society; out and beyond the realms of our personal well-being, there lies a feeling of empathy and compassion that many of us truly lack.