Ramadan is celebrated all over the world in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered to be the holiest of periods in Islam. This year, Ramadan will be observed beginning July 8, 2013 and Eid ul Fitr will be celebrated on August 7, 2013. The whole month is dedicated to fasting in fulfillment of the third of the Five Pillars of Islam. This is a time when Muslims are required to fast, save for the sick, pregnant, or women undergoing their menstruation period, provided that they make up for lost days when they can.
Etymologically, Ramadan means scorching heat but this special period holds many meanings for the followers of Islam. Fasting is a common denominator among religions. Practitioners use these dedicated periods of fasting as a form of sacrifice, contemplation, and devotion to God. The same goes in the month of Ramadan, when Muslims experience a sense of spiritual renewal through fasting and reflection. Fasting has many benefits, both physical and spiritual. Yet on the sacred month of Ramadan, it is believed that these benefits are multiplied. Moreover, it teaches followers of Islam the values of self-control, discipline, and charity.
During this season, Muslims partake of a pre-fast meal at dawn called suhoor. Throughout the day, consumption of food and drink are avoided, as well as other activities such as smoking, and even for others, marital sex. As much as the Ramadan is a time of fasting, it is also a time of bonding with one’s family and community.
In Muslim communities, iftar is sometimes spent with friends and relatives. In South East Asia, for example, most shops and stores are closed during daylight hours, turning these places a little sleepier than usual. However, people can watch out for bazaars that start operating late in the afternoon to start preparing food for Muslims who are about to break their fast for the day.
The last ten days of the Ramadan are a special time of religious practices, prayer and good deeds, in that this period, according to the Quran, is a time of special power. It is said that it was during the month of Ramadan when the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad, the actual day of which Muslims call Lailut ul-Qadr. Generally this is commemorated on the 27th night of Ramadan. This night is considered to be worth more than a thousand months and so Muslims spend this particular night saying prayers.
The last day of the Ramadan is called the Eid ul-Fitr which means “the celebration of the breaking of the fast.” It is a much-anticipated event in a similar way that Christmas is to Christians – Muslims go back home to celebrate with their families, offer prayers and remember their dearly departed. What makes Eid ul Fitr a special occasion is not only because of the official end of the fasting season. More than that, it is a time of prayer, and thanksgiving shown in acts of charity for the poor and sharing of meals as well as gift giving to children. Street procession are also a common sight during Eid ul Fitr.
Capturing the Spirit of Ramadan
When Muslims around the world observe Ramadan, it is the best time to capture the spiritual reflection, worship and devotion that has come to characterize this holy period. Film artists can take footage of the various visuals of Islam’s holiest month. It can be the vendors of the Ramadan lanterns in Doha, Qatar or of a street vendor selling pickles at a market in Gaza. A woman making pastries for the Iftar to break the fast or a musaharati on his drums waking people up for the early breakfast before fasting starts at sunrise, are also poignant footages of Ramadan. The possibilities are endless, like the date seller waiting for customers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia or a villager reading the Qur’an in Lybia. In Jerusalem, a footage of the Taraweeh or night prayers in the mosque of the Prophet Muhammad should be a dream shot for video enthusiasts. A man performing ablution, which is the act of washing for ritual purification, in Indonesia, and congregants going to the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi, India are footages that are worth a thousand words. Since Muslims all over the world celebrate Ramadan, it is the best time for film artists to take out their cameras and try to capture the spirit of Islam’s holiest period.