Ritual Ramadan In Muslim's Culture

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Rituals are a traditional ceremony or an action that are performed in a particular way according to a specific religion (Goldburg et al.,2010). There are two main types of rituals; life cycle rituals and calendrical rituals. Calendrical rituals mark passages of time following the natural cycle of creation and are celebrated at a particular time of the year (Goldburg et al.,2010). Ramadan is an Islamic calendrical ritual and requires believers to fast for one month in a year over consecutive days in the lunar month of Ramadan (Goldburg et al.,2010). The calendrical ritual Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam and is described in the Qur’an as “Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you are expected to be truly obedient” (Qur’an,2:183), therefore fasting is a foundational belief of Islam. It is hypothesised that the purpose of the calendrical ritual, Ramadan, is to improve self-control in all areas of life; its influence on Muslims, society, and culture is to assist the believer in building compassion, strengthening spiritual growth with Allah and each other as well as encouraging social interactions. This analytical essay aims to analyse the purpose of the calendrical ritual Ramadan and its influence on Muslim culture and society. The following topics will be addressed to effectively argue the hypothesis statement; the characteristics, function, nature, and purpose of the calendrical ritual Ramadan. In addition, how adherents and different cultures celebrate Ramadan will be investigated. The significance of Ramadan using Lovat’s theory and the ritual’s significance on society and culture will be analysed and evaluated. Therefore, the calendrical ritual Ramadan will be investigated to analyse the purpose of the ritual and its influence on people, society and culture. The characteristics of Ramadan portray the significance of the ritual and when and how it occurs. Muslims are required to fast for one month a year over consecutive days in the lunar month of Ramadan. Ramadan is part of the lunar calendar; however, its date annually changes on the Gregorian calendar (Goldburg et al.,2010). Therefore, the date of the ritual shifts about 11 days each year. Ramadan is participated in from dawn to sunset. A practising Muslim abstains from eating and drinking while spending time in reflection and engaging in good deeds (Goldburg et al.,2010). As the ritual is part of the lunar calendar the month of Ramadan starts on the first indication of light after the new moon. Ramadan represents the time when Muhammad received his revelation. 

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‘The month of Ramadan (is the month) in which the Qur’an has been sent down as guidance for mankind containing clear signs which lead (to the straight road) and distinguishing (the truth from falsehood)’ (Qur’an, 2:185). Muslims believe that their good actions bring a greater reward during this month than at any other time of year. Ramadan is the only time when fasting or ‘Swam’, is obligatory during the entire month for every able Muslim. Ramadan is intended to increase self-control in all areas, including food, sleeping, intimate relations and the use of time (Goldburg et al.,2010). The characteristics of Ramadan assist adherents in identifying and strengthening their connection with the ritual and their faith, therefore, influencing people and culture. The function or process of Ramadan is significant and must be completed in a specific way, although many adherents celebrate Ramadan in different ways there are particular events that all believers must participate in. From dawn to sunset a practising Muslim abstains from eating, drinking and sexual relations while spending time in reflection, doing good deeds and being careful in one’s conduct. At sunset each day, fasting is broken with a meal usually with family and friends who compete to invite one another to breakfast with them in groups. Muslims may wake up before dawn to consume an early breakfast to sustain them throughout the day (Goldburg et al.,2010). Throughout Ramadan, Muslims usually go to the Mosque every night for a special congregational prayer; however, this is not compulsory, as reformed Muslims are more inclined to participate as they are more committed to their faith. Within the month of Ramadan, during the last 10 nights, ‘The Night of Decree’ also occurs (Goldburg et al.,2010). According to Muslims, this is the night in which God decrees the destiny for human beings. It is also the night when the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. I’tikaf refers to going into seclusion during the last ten nights of Ramadan (Goldburg et al.,2010). Some people live in the Mosque during this time for serious reflection and worship. Thus, it can be demonstrated that the more involved you are with the ritual the greater impact it has on participant’s spiritual journey. The ritual is straining on adherents’ physical capabilities as it consumes participant’s entire livelihood from before sunrise to sunset, impacting their diet, day to day activities and their association with friends and family for an entire month. The function of Ramadan is to improve self-control in all areas of life. Its influence on Muslims, society, and culture is to assist the believer in building compassion, strengthening spiritual growth with Allah. Therefore, it can be demonstrated that the function of Ramadan has a significant impact on society and culture as the ritual is interwoven into the lives of adherents thus making it a significant event in their spiritual journey and strengthening their belief with Allah. The importance of participating in Ramadan for Muslims is significant in the lives of adherents, as they believe that their superior actions bring a greater reward during this month than at any other time of year. Ramadan is the only time when fasting or swam, is obligatory, for every Muslim capable of participating. As stated in the five pillars of Islam, swam or fasting during Ramadan is one of their most foundational beliefs. Ramadan is intended to increase self-control in all areas, including food, sleeping, intimate relations and their use of time. Fasting is prescribed in the Qur’an (2:183-187) so that Muslims will learn self-restraint and self-discipline for the rest of the year: “Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness” (Qur’an 2:183). Ramadan is very important to Muslims as it is prescribed by Allah through the Qur’an and so, by fasting, Muslims are obeying the will and the law of Allah strengthening their spiritual connection to their God (Goldburg et al.,2010). 

Muslims who do not pray regularly still follow the foundational beliefs of their religion therefore, they will strive to fulfill the requirements of Ramadan as stated in the Qur’an. By practicing self-control through the ritual of Ramadan, Muslims come closer to purifying their mind of desires and evil thoughts as requested in the five pillars of Islam. This gives them more of a chance to practice goodwill towards others, to share others’ burdens and to forgive (Goldburg et al.,2010). “Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, all his past sins will be forgiven” (Bukhari). Fasting during Ramadan is considered to be beneficial because it deepens adherents’ compassion for the poor and unfortunate because they are positioned to feel intense hunger therefore, Muslims experience what the less fortunate are familiar with. The ritual significantly impacts adherents as it renews the focus on spirituality and deepens the participant’s spiritual growth as an individual through contact with family and friends. In addition, the process builds character as it is self-motivating, and requires patience and discipline (Goldburg et al.,2010). These characteristics are significant as they strengthen an individual’s connection with their god Allah, therefore completing the purpose of Ramadan. Furthermore, it builds social interaction as Muslims are encouraged to share food and drink with family and friends during non-fast times of Ramadan. Therefore, the nature and purpose of Ramadan has a significant impact on adherents and their spiritual journey through Ramadan as they connect with others and strengthen their spiritual connection. Ramadan is celebrated in diverse ways in the lives of adherents and different cultures. Iktikaf is a process where some Muslims may choose to undertake where they spend the last ten nights of Ramadan in seclusion to reflect and deepen their spirituality and their connection with Muhammad (Goldburg et al.,2010). Some adherents live in the mosque during this time for serious reflection and worship whereas others spend a few hours at the mosque or home depending on their commitment to their faith. Various religions can participate in calendrical rituals in a religiously plural society. Generally, Muslims find no issue in participating in their calendrical rituals in a religiously plural society. In modern society, the characteristics of Ramadan can be analysed in different denominations including Sunni and Shia. All Muslims believe the Qur’an is their holy text and believe and participate in the five pillars of Islam including Ramadan. However, there are some minor differences between how the different denominations Sunni and Shia Muslims participate in the ritual Ramadan. For instance, Sunni Muslims break their daily fast at sunset, when the sun is no longer visible however there is still light in the sky. On the other hand, Shia Muslims do not consume food until the sun has set completely and the sky is dark. The difference derives from how each denomination interprets the Qur’an as it states that fasting must end at dark therefore the Sunni Muslims believe that is at sunset whether Shia Muslims believe there must not be any light left in the sky therefore, no matter what latitude or country (factors that affect the time of a sunset) you live in, you are fasting at the correct time (Nabbout, 2019). In addition, Shia Muslims also celebrate the martyrdom of Ali ibn Abi Talib (son in law of Prophet Muhammad) within the month of Ramadan due to their strong belief in Ali as he was the first official Shia leader (Williams,2019). Therefore, it can be demonstrated that Ramadan is celebrated in various ways throughout the diverse denominations of Islam enhancing and reinforcing their beliefs thus impacting their society and culture. Ramadan marks a significant event in the lives of believers, this can be analysed using Lovat’s theory. Terence Lovat developed a model that can be utilised to analyse rituals using the perspective that all rituals have a beginning, middle, and end. Lovat developed a five-step approach (Entry, preparation, climax, celebration, and return) which can be applied to the ritual of Ramadan. The Entry of the ritual begins at sunrise on the ninth month of the year, this is because the ritual follows the lunar calendar. Preparation includes; Cleaning their houses to invite family and friends over for dinner, consuming lots of high protein foods and drink as much water as possible right up till dawn. They wake up early before the sun rises to eat breakfast. It is tradition to prepare for Ramadan as the companions of the prophet Muhammad used to prepare for 6 months, in modern society it is acceptable to fast voluntarily up to Ramadan to practice (Islamic relief, 2019). 

The Climax is the fasting and Lailat ul-Qadr which is the final days of Ramadan where Muslims celebrate Muhammad’s first revelation. ‘Indeed, we have revealed it (Qur’an) in the Night of Power…The night of Power is better than a thousand months” (Quran, 97:1-3). In the ritual of Ramadan, the celebration and return are combined with the festival of Id al Fitr which celebrates the breaking of the fast and is a feast period that occurs just after the month-long fast of Ramadan. It lasts for three days and marks the end of the ritual. It is an Islamic custom to celebrate Eid with a small breakfast and to give charity before Eid prayers in congregation. Many Muslims celebrate by giving gifts, wearing new or clean clothes, and visiting friends and family. This is implied by the Qur’an as it is stated in the Qur’an “Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He will multiply it for him and he will have a noble reward” (Qur’an 57:11). This quote demonstrates that Allah believes in charity and helping others. Furthermore, it can be observed through Lovat’s theory that Ramadan is a significant event in the lives of adherents as it consumes participant’s entire livelihood from before sunrise to sunset, impacting their diet, day to day activities and their association with friends and family for an entire month. Therefore, it can be demonstrated that the ritual has a notable impact on society and culture as the ritual is interwoven into every facet of their lives thus making it a significant event in their spiritual journey and strengthening their belief with Allah. The calendrical ritual Ramadan has a significant impact on society and culture through the lives of believers. Fasting during Ramadan is significant to believers as it broadens their compassion for the poor and less fortunate through the act of fasting as commanded in the Qur’an. It renews the focus on spirituality and spiritual growth through connecting with family and friends. Improves character building, self-motivation, patience and discipline this is displayed in the quote (Goldburg et al.,2010). “The best among you are those who have the best manners and character (al-Bukhari). This quote demonstrates that Ramadan assists believers in working on different aspects of their character (Islamic relief, 2019). In addition, enhances social interaction as Muslims are encouraged by the Qur’an to share food and drink with family and friends during non-fast times of Ramadan. By practicing self-control through the ritual of Ramadan, Muslims come closer to purifying their mind of desires and evil thoughts (Goldburg et al.,2010). This gives them more of a chance to practice goodwill towards others, to share others’ burdens and to forgive. “All the children of Adam constantly err, but the best of those who constantly err are those who constantly repent” (Tirmidhi) This quote demonstrates that everyone makes mistakes but can always be forgiven. 

Therefore, the ritual Ramadan has a significant impact on society and culture as it strengthens their spiritual connection with Allah and makes each follower a more compassionate and spiritual individual. It was argued that the purpose of the calendrical ritual Ramadan is to improve self-control in all areas of life; its influence on Muslims, society and culture is to assist the believer in building compassion, strengthening spiritual growth and encouraging social interactions (Goldburg et al.,2010). The characteristics, function, nature and purpose of the calendrical ritual Ramadan were analysed, and it can be concluded that they have a significant impact on how adherents interpret the ritual and how it is carried out. A conclusion can be drawn from how Ramadan is celebrated throughout adherents and different cultures. Although adherent and various cultures celebrate and participate in the ritual differently the main focus of the ritual, fasting stays the same and can be located through various cultures. Lovat’s theory is an analytical tool to analyse rituals, by using this tool the significance of the ritual in the lives of believers is demonstrated. Furthermore, the calendrical ritual Ramadan has been investigated to analyse its purpose and impact on Muslims in society and culture through various aspects of the ritual and Lovat’s theory.  

24 May 2022

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