Welcome to the David Victor Vector Blog

Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ramadan

The Islamic observance of the holy month of Ramadan (رمضان) for 2016 begins on (or near to, depending on the sighting of the moon) the evening of Sunday, June 5 and ends on the evening of Tuesday, July 5 with the concluding holiday of Eid al Fitr.  

As with all Islamic holidays, the actual date depends on the sightability of the moon. While the most commonly accepted date for this year is for sunset of June 5, some debate exists among certain sects as to whether the sighting of the moon should be on the same day as the sighting of the moon in Mecca or the day following. Because I have received criticism for stating one date only in the past, let me state clearly here that this overview is meant to be informational only and is in no way intended to indicate that one view or the other is correct.

All students, employees and faculty who request it, should be accommodated. For most Muslims, the first and last days of Ramadan are usually spent in worship and students, employees and faculty should be excused from activities if requested. Some Muslims also observe an exclusion period in the mosque (Iʿtikāf ) during the last 10 days of Ramadan and may need accommodation.

Importantly, during the entire month of Ramadan, believers fast during the daylight hours. Part of accommodation should therefore include discouraging others from eating or drinking in class or in other settings where attendance is mandatory. Consideration should also be given to requiring attendance at meetings where food is served (as in serving meals or snacks during the meeting).

Ramadan: Islam’s Holy Month

Ramadan is a time of worship and contemplation in Islam. Ramadan is observed by all sects.  The month of Ramadan – the ninth in the Islamic lunar calendar -- is also when it is believed the first verses of the Koran were sent down from heaven in 610 CE.

It should be noted, however, that this was not the Koran in its entirety which was revealed through the Prophet Mohammed during a 23-year span (only concluding in 632 CE).

Shared Ramadan Observances

While Ramadan customs vary from culture to culture, almost all Moslems share in common the observances of fasting, prayer and the conclusion of the month with Eid al-Fitr. The observance of Ramadan is a central practice of the faith, and its observance is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Fasting or Sawm (صوم‎)

Moslems observing Ramadan fast during daylight hours. The fast includes all food, drink, recreational drugs, sex and tobacco. Most Moslems also consider the fast to include a ban on evil thoughts, gossip, lying, cheating and fighting from dawn to sunset.

Those observing Ramadan will usually want to break their fast at sunset.  Breakfast or lunch meetings, snacks brought for a class and the like should be reconsidered accordingly. Also, even employees, students and others who may not always observe the prayer at the setting of the sun (Maghrib) may do so during this month (note that if it is not possible for students to pray at the appointed times, they are permitted to pray as soon as they can after that – which might, for example, affect an student’s willingness to stay after class or an employee to stay late for a project). Each day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar (إفطار ).

Taraweeh ( تراويح‎) and the Recitation of the Koran

In the evening following the iftar it is common for many people to go to the mosque for Taraweeh or night prayers. Many also go to visit family and friends and recite the prayers together there. Some schools of thought consider Taraweeh compulsory while others consider the prayers voluntary but strongly encouraged. The actually number and nature of the pairs of rakaʿāt recited also vary according to sect and custom. Because feelings run very deeply on this issue and I do not wish to in any way appear to endorse one practice or another, it may be best to refer to the reading lists at the end of this post to read about these different views.

Many Moslems recite out loud the whole Koran during the month of Ramadan. This is in imitation of what the Prophet Mohammed did during his lifetime. Some families have a tradition of gathering together as an extended family or in groups of friends to recite the Koran as a group activity. In nations with Moslem majority populations or in which Islam is the state religion, the recitation of the Koran is often broadcast over radio and television stations.

Iʿtikāf ( اعتكاف‎)

Lailat ul Qadr
Though not a requirement, many Moslems choose to go into a state of Iʿtikāf or seclusion (usually in a mosque) for a period during Ramadan. This is most commonly for the last ten days of Ramadan so that they can be praying and reading the Koran on Lailat ul Qadr.  Lailat ul Qadr or the Night of Power was the night in which the first verses of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. The Koran teaches that  "Lailat  ul Qadr is better than a thousand months" (Sura 97: 3) and so prayers are much greater in power then. Nevertheless, the actual night of Lailat  ul Qadr remains unknown, except that it occurs within the last ten days (some believe last five days) of Ramadan.


Conclusion of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr

Depending on sightability of the moon, the evening of Thursday, July 7 will be the start of  Eid al-Fitr. The festival marks the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan.  It is traditionally a time for meals with the extended family and friends that lasts for two or three days. 

On Eid al-Fitr most Moslems go early to the mosque and in many cases may go to an open-air site such as a stadium early.  There they say special prayers marking the end of Ramadan. Parents and grandparents traditionally give token sums of money or sweets.

Moslems also give Zakat  ( زكاة‎) or alms to the poor in honor of Eid.  This is called Zakat al-Eid.  Typically, people give a donation (in food or cash or both) to the poor. Since Eid al-Fitr comes at the end of a month of particular piety and dedication to God, the holiday is also a time for giving forgiveness and praying for peace and unity.

The traditional Arabic greeting for the Eid is “Eid mubarak” which more or less translates as “Blessed Eid” or just “Happy Eid” (which can be said as well, of course).


Ramadan Customs Around the World

Beyond the share observances described above, customs vary from country to country. Only a few of these are described below (but please add in the comment section those from your own traditions).

Albania
Ramadan (in Albanian Ramazani) has particular significance in Albania. Under Communist rule, Albanians were prohibited from signs of worship. Ramadan was significant, though, since fasting could not be detected by the atheist authorities. With the end of the repressive regime of Enver Hoxha in 1991, though, public worship for Moslems and Eastern Orthodox Christians alike began to flourish. It is significant that virtually no religious conflict occurs between Moslems and Christians in Albania (unlike the neighboring countries of the former Yugoslavia where religion had not been banned). Indeed, at Ramadan, Moslem children now commonly share trays of Ramadan treats with their Christian counterparts just as the Christian children share Easter eggs with their Moslem friends. It is also not uncommon for Moslems to invited Christians to their homes to break the fast with them even though the Christians were not fasting, and some Christians hold meals for breaking the fast in their own homes for their Moslem friends.
Since the fall of Communism, the Ramadan drumming of the lodra through the streets is common again. The lodra is the national instrument and appears on images for Radio Tirana. Men go through the streets beating a lodra so that people wake up to eat can eat before the sun rises. The man returns beating the lodra as the sun sets to announce the breaking of the fast. 
Albanian byrek
While Albanians offer a wide variety of food in different parts of the couuntry to break the fast, one of the most common Ramadan specialties is byrek. This is a a fried pastry made of phyllo dough and stuffed with spinach, meat or milk curd. People eat byrek cold or heated up depending on preference. A recipe for Albanian byrek is available at

Egypt

Egypt comes alive at night during Ramadan. Shops, often closed during the day, stay open into to 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and buildings are strung with lights and other decorations.

Fanoos lanterns for sale
in Cairo
Children celebrate Ramadan with a fanoos or traditional Ramadan lantern. These lantern are constructed of tin with colored glass (or sometimes plastic) panes through which shines the light from a candle placed in side.

One particularity for Egypt is fairly modern as Egypt grew to become center for Arabic-language television. To mark Ramadan, the Egyptian entertainment industry introduces over half of all Egyptian TV serials produced each year.

Ful medames
Special foods also mark Ramadan in Egypt. Traditionally, Egyptians begin their morning meal with ful medames. Often considered Egypt's national dish, ful medames dates back to the time of ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs. The dish is made of fava beans simmered together with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and other spices. One recipe for ful medames is available at:


The traditional Ramadan drink of Egypt is called Qamar el-din. This is made from sheets of dried apricot paste boiled in water.

India and Pakistan

Hands decorated with henna
In India and Pakistan, Moslem girls traditionally dress festively with gold or multicolored bracelets and bangles. It is common for Ramadan in general -- and especially for Eid--  for girls to paint each others’ hands with mehndi (henna designs).

Samosas
While Ramadan foods vary from region to region throughout India and Pakistan, one food common to iftar throughout both countries is the samosa.  A samosa is a fried, triangle-shaped pastry stuffed with any number of fillings. These can include vegetables, meat, chicken, potatoes and more.This accompanied with a dipping chutney of, from among others, mint, coriander, tamarind.  In fact, there are so many varieties of samosas, that an entire site is dedicated to them at


Indonesia

Bedug
The end of the day's fast in Indonesia is traditionally heralded by pounding of the bedug, a special drum for the occasion. Even in urban areas where an actual bedug may not be played, broadcasts of the sound of the drum are broadcast over radios and televisions. On the last night of Ramadan (called Lebaran), bedug players are often joined by large groups of musicians who play well into the night in a celebrative parade.


Panjat pinang pole-climbing 

In many Indonesia towns and especially in Jakarta, panjat pinang pole-climbing competitions are held at Ramadan. The poles are made from nut trees that have been smoothed down and covered with grease. No one person is usually able to climb the pole, so the climbing is usually a group effort. At the top of the pole are a collection of small prizes called panjat pinang. When someone reaches the top and grabs any of the prizes, they share them with those who helped them up the pole.

At the end of Ramada on Eid al-Fitr (called Idul Fitri in Bahasa Indonesia), it is customary in most Indonesian villages to go on Mohon Maaf visits following morning prayers. Mohon Maaf comes from the phrase “Mohon Maaf Lahir Batin” which means "forgive me from the bottom of my heart for my wrongdoings in the past year." Generally, the visits go in order of the most senior member of a family down and at each house, with food provided at each stop along the way. 

 Indonesians trapped in traffic
in Karawang at conclusion of Eid al-Fitr
Many Indonesians have roots in the countryside even if they live in the large cities. This poses a special problem for Indonesia each year at Ramadan, as millions of people leave the cities for their hometowns. While many people in other countries leave for their hometowns as well at Ramadan, the situation is arguably at its most extreme in Indonesia. The expatriate information site "Living in Indonesia" estimated that last year for Ramadan 2011 over 7 million people left Jakarta alone to go visit their traditional homes. The crush of traffic at both the beginning and end of Ramadan therefore predictably overtaxes the national transportation infrastructure each year.




Malaysia

Malays shopping for flowers
for Ramadan
For Malays, people traditionally visit not only living relatives but also to visit graveyards to visit those relatives who have passed on. Ramadan is often a time of brightly-colored decorations and clothing among Malays. Many people decorate their homes with flowers and women in particular often wear colorful headscarves.  

A Ramadan Bazaar
in Kuala Lumpur
Throughout Malaysia on Ramadan, it is common to see "Ramadan bazaars." These are Ramadan counterparts to the year-round Malaysian night markets (pasar malam). Instead of opening at night, though, the Ramadan markets open in the late afternoon as people buy their food for the evening post-fasting meal. It should be noted that in Malaysia's multicultural society, the Ramadan bazaars are very popular with non-Moslems and Moslems alike.


Qatar


Qatari children dressed for Garangao
Qataris celebrate the 14th day of Ramadan with a special celebration called Garangao. The night of  Garangao is a children's celebration. Children dress in traditional clothing, sing a special Garangao song for their families at home and are rewarded with sweets.

After this, the tradition is somewhat akin to the North American Halloween as the children go door to door for what is called a "nutting night out" as the children collect nuts and other treats from neighbors. Some Kuwaiti children, like their counterparts in Qatar, also celebrate Garangao in the middle of the holy month.


Kuwait

Firing the cannon
at Naif Palace
Since the arrival of the first cannon in Kuwait in 1907, it has been a tradition at Naif Palace in Kuwait City to fire a cannon shot to mark the end of the fast. It is customary to bring children to the gather around the cannon before iftar so they can celebrate in the blast. In recent years, the children have been joined by tourists -- both Moslem and non-Moslem alike -- for whom the blasts have become a Ramadan attraction.

Luqmat Al-Qadi
On the eve of the first night of Ramadan, Kuwaitis celebrate with a pre-Ramadan festivity called Graish. At Graish, people gather with family and friends and welcome the holiday with the foods traditional to Ramadan in Kuwait. These include dates and special sweets such as Luqmat Al-Qadi. Luqmat Al-Qadi are balls of dough mixed with saffron, cardamom, milk and butter that are boiled in fat and then rolled in syrup or sugar.  A recipe for Luqmat al-Qadi can be found at:


Incidentally during Ottoman times,  Luqmat al-Qadi made its way from the Gulf countries to Turkey as lokma and Greece as loukmades.   Luqmat al-Qadi is also the source from which the Indian and Pakistani gulab jaman originally derived.

Kyrgyzstan

Traditionally at Ramadan, the Kyrgyz accompany their evening meal with drinks made from special Ramadan kurut. A kurut is a dried yogurt ball.


Ramadan kurut balls
Osh Bazaar, Bishkek
Normal kurut are fairly small and extremely salty. By contrast, the special Ramadan kurut are roughly the size of someone's fist and are much salty. While regular, small-sized kurut are available all year long where they are sold throughout the country in plastic jars, the special Ramadan kurut are much harder to come by, and as a result are a special thing for most Kyrgyz.  These special Ramadan kurut are sold only in the Osh Bazaar in the capital city of Bishkek.

The Kyrgyz use Ramadan kurut to make a variety of Ramadan beverages. The balls are dissolved in carbonated water and mixed with tomatoes and onions for a savory drink. The balls are dissolved in hot water and mixed with sugar and creamy oil for a dessert drink. In either case, the kurut drinks are special for the holiday and represent a one-time-a-year tradition.

Mauritania

Ramadan in Mauritania is a time when traditional games are played, especially among women. 
What is particularly unusual in this tradition is that the games are primarily played by women in what is otherwise a primarily male-oriented society when it comes to competitions.

As the Mohamed Yahya Abdel Wedoud in his article "Mauritanians mark Ramadan with traditional games and neighbourly visits" explains:
After prayers, traditional games such as ekrour and essik dominate the Ramadan nightlife, especially for women. Women throughout the country form teams and compete with each other.

Mauritanian woman playing traditional Ramadan game  
Morocco

A Morrocan n'far blowing his horn
In Morocco, a tradition exists in which a n'far (a special Ramadan equivalent to a town crier) walks down the streets playing a long, one-note n'far horn (similar to a brass vuvuzela) in the morning to wake everyone up in time for the last meal before sunrise. In many towns, being selected as the n'far is a high honor and usually bestowed upon an individual who knows everyone in the neighborhood well.

Moroccan chebbakia
Morocco is famous for its many special Ramadan treats, especially sweets. These include the anise and sesame-seed bread called qrashel, the turnover-like briwat, the crepe-like baghrir, and especially that most famous of all Moroccan sweets: the honey-soaked, sesame-sprinkled chebbakia. 
One recipe for chebakkia can be found at http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/tipsandtechniques/ss/How_to_make_Chebakia.htm

Turkey

Ramazan (the Turkish name of Ramadan) is generally a festive time throughout Turkey. Buildings and trees, especially in rural areas, are decorated with colored lights and booths are set up for the month selling traditional foods, religious books and a wide variety of Ramazan specials.

 Lokum (Turkish delight)
Throughout the small towns of Turkey and even in some larger cities, special Ramazan drummers go through the street banging on drums. Their purpose is  to wake people before the sun rises so they have time to eat.
The three days after Ramazan concludes is celebrated with the Sugar Festival (Şeker Bayramı) when -- as the name suggests -- sweets and candies are eaten. Traditionally, in addition to offering sweets to friends and family at home, children go from door to door ask for candy.  Most famous of the many sweets offered is lokum, known through most of the world as "Turkish delight."  A recipe for the treat can be found at



Concluding Comment

As with all of my commentaries, this overview is meant only as an informational message. It in no way is meant to suggest that one interpretation is in any way better than another regarding how to celebrate Ramadan  

That said, I am open to your input. Please feel free to share your comments for improvement (or support for that matter) with me. Ramadan Mubarek!



Want To Know More?



Murray Candle, "Ramadan: A Mosaic of Traditions Around the World," http://murraycandle.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/ramadan-a-mosaic-of-traditions-around-the-world/

Emel, ""Ramadan Across the Globe," http://emel.com/article?id=88&a_id=2446


Michael A. Fredericks, AllMalaysia.com, "Ramadan," http://allmalaysia.info/2011/08/19/ramadan/


Holidays.net, "Ramadan," http://holidays.net/ramadan/

Huda, About.com, "What is Ramadan?" http://islam.about.com/od/ramadan/f/ramadanintro.htm

Living in Indonesia, "Ramadan and Lebaran in Indonesia," http://www.expat.or.id/info/lebaran.html


Muhajabah.com, "Ramadan FAQ http://www.muhajabah.com/ramadan-faq.htm

Juliette Schmidt, OnIslam.net, "In Ramadan: A Journey Around the World," http://www.onislam.net/english/culture-and-entertainment/traditions/448896-ramadanaroundtheworld.html

TheEid.com, "Ramadan," http://www.theeid.com/ramadan/

Morocco World News, "Ramadan Life and Traditions in Ramadan," http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/06/132599/ramadan-life-and-traditions-in-morocco/




Clip-Art Credits

Opening clip art: http://i1.squidoocdn.com/resize/squidoo_images/250/draft_lens19160628module157196200photo_1330258970aaa__a.jpg

Ramadan fast clip art (adapted from): http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/224/f/3/RAMADAN_MUBARAK_1431h_by_bx.jpg

Mosque clip art: http://www.clker.com/cliparts/8/2/2/f/1282647222988584111mosque.svg.med.png

Lailat ul-Qadr clip art: http://sapnamagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/laylat-al-qadr.jpg

Radio Tirana lodra: http://web.mclink.it/MJ0350/libera/tirana/tiran19.jpg

Albanian byrek: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Evb%C3%B6re%C4%9Fi.jpg
Egyptian fanoos lanterns for sale: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/ramadanlanterns.htm

Henna hands: http://www.america.gov/multimedia/photogallery.html#/30145/multi_ramadan/

Samosa: http://recipesnest.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/samosa.jpg

Bedug drum: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_kXYte55FGyo/SKQqfZtVKkI/AAAAAAAAAN8/wTs3t3m6iMo/s320/bedug.jpg

Panjat pinang pole climbers: http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/panjat-pinang-a-slippery-tradition-of-thailand.html

Indonesians trapped in traffic in Karawang at conclusion of Eid al-Fitr: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01712/ramadan-indonesia2_1712808i.jpg

Ramadan flowers for sale in Malaysia:  http://www.america.gov/multimedia/photogallery.html#/30145/multi_ramadan/

Ramada Bazaar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: http://allmalaysia.info/2011/08/19/ramadan/

Qatari children dressed for Garangao: http://www.cbq.com.qa/NewsDetails.aspx?id=344

Iftar cannon, Naif Palace, Kuwait: http://www.q8nri.com/home/2010/08/17/iftar-cannon-a-source-of-attraction-in-kuwait-in-ramadan/

Luqmat al-Qadi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Loukoumades.jpg

Ramadan kurut balls, Osh Bazaar, Bishkek: http://students.sras.org/what-bishkek-eats-for-ramadan/

2 comments:

  1. Great job David! Your comprehensive presentation on all the religions helps a lot in understanding diversity better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great job David! Your comprehensive presentation on all the religions helps a lot in understanding diversity better.

    ReplyDelete