Fruits for the Week

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Muslims make very elaborate preparations and arrangements for the month of fasting. They cancel business tours and try to stay at home during the month of Ramadhan. They get up early in the morning before dawn and offer nafilah (optional) prayer before taking their sehri (morning meals). In Muslim countries, especially in India and Pakistan, people in groups move about in the streets singing praises of Allah and darud on His Holy Messenger (saw)) to wake people up for sehri. Many people do not sleep at all during the night but read the Qur'an and offer nafila prayers. In Saudi Arabia, most people do not sleep at night during the month of Ramadhan. They go to sleep after morning prayer.

Again in the evening, at iftar (breaking of fast) people gather together in the mosques, or families assemble at home, and have plenty of fruits, sweets, salty dishes, and cold drinks. Normally Muslims, according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw), break their fast with a couple of dates and take a light snack at sunset, followed by evening prayer (Maghrib prayer).

The breaking of the fast is called iftar. After the prayer, they have their full dinner. At the breaking of the fast, Muslim repeat the words of the Prophet (saw) according to his sunnah: “O Allah! I have fasted for You, I have believed in You, and Your food I break the fast. In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.” It is also the sunnah of the Prophet (saw) to breakfast soon after sunset without delay. Sahl reported Allah's Messenger said: “They will continue to prosper as long as they hasten the breaking of the fast.

When Muslims begin their fast at dawn, they take their meals, known as sahur or sehri in the tradition of the Prophet (saw). This event is described in the Holy Qur'an in these words: “And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast till the night appears.” (Qur'an 2: 187)

In the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) to eat before commencing fast early in the morning before dawn: according to Anas, Allah's Messenger (saw) said: “Take a meal a little before dawn for there is a blessing in taking a meal at that time.

At the commencing of the fast when Muslims take sehri they pronounce their intention of fasting in these words, according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw): “O Allah! I intend to fast today in obedience to Your Command and only to seek your pleasure.” There is an additional prayer, called the tarawih prayer of 8, 12, or 20 rakats, with the night prayer, during the month of Ramadhan.

The fast lasts from dawn to dusk, between which times a Muslim may neither eat nor drink anything, nor smoke nor indulge in sexual intercourse. He should avoid hearing, seeing, or doing anything evil or obscene. According to the Prophet (saw), people who do even minor evils lose the good effects of fasting. Abu Hurairah reported Allah's Messenger (saw) as saying: “Whoever does not give up false speech and evil action, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and water.”

Thus mere hunger and thirst do not constitute fasting. It consists of complete abstention from worldly things, including food, drink, and evil doing of every kind. This is the essence of fasting and all of the forms of ibadah. It is not merely refraining from food and drink but from all kinds of foul speech, abusive words, and evil deeds. The times of fasting are clearly laid down in the Qur'an in the Surah Al-Baqarah: 187. This verse of the Holy Qur'an clearly lays down the time limits of fasting. It does not, however, give times by the clock but mentions the clear and visible signs on the horizon which indicate the arrival of mornings and evenings in all parts of the world. This is the natural and simple method by which people can find times of fasting and prayer without much difficulty in any part of the world.

People living in some parts of the world face long periods of darkness but they still have their hours of sleep and work and hours of relaxation. They go to work at fixed hours and come back at fixed hours. They get up at certain hours at night. They speak of their daily activities and night engagements as do people living on or around the equator. They may not have seen the sun for long periods of time, but every day, they observe the visible signs of the approaching day in the form of light on the eastern horizon, clearly differentiating day from night. They get up and go to work and, in the evening, they clearly observe the light fading away and darkness gradually spreading over the sky. Accordingly, they fix their times of work, play, and other engagements.

They can fix their starting time for fasting from the approaching light on the Eastern horizon, separating it from darkness, at the end of their night; and the ending time from the approaching darkness at the end of their working day. This can be done with ease and without difficulty.

(to be continued)

by Afzalur Rahman

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