Ramzan and Eid celebrations : Now and then
Afroza Bilkis :
The holy month of Ramzan brings us a great reward, the greatest Muslim celebration of Eid. However, that is not the only fact about the significance of Ramzan. It teaches us lot more on how to develop the human qualities of patience, tolerance, mutual respect and to be content with what we have. In order to achieve and develop these virtues, Muslims around the world fast for a whole 29 or 30 days during this month. Ramzan is also the most awaited and the most beautiful time of the Islamic year (Hijri) for many other reasons.
The tradition of this obligatory fasting during the month of Ramzan began in the seventh century when the holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Pbuh) meditated in the cave of Hera north of Makka in search of Almighty Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala, Creator of the universe. By the instruction of the Almighty, this month was established as the most sacred one. Therefore, observance of Ramzan became one of the five principal pillars of Islam.
Ramzan is a great time for physical and spiritual purification. Doctors have repeatedly affirmed the health benefits of fasting. Fasting during Ramzan significantly helps in weight management, healthier blood cells regeneration and better heart functioning. Over the month long fast, Muslims are required not just to abstain from eating and drinking, they cannot also do any bad things, say bad words or even think bad. They must refrain from all wrongful deeds and seek Almighty Allah's mercy, forgiveness for their previous wrongs and pray for Nazat -Salvation in the afterworld. This is Taqwa.
The night of Decree (or the night of Power), Lailatul Qadr, is in this month in which the holy Quran, the eternal and complete Code of life was first revealed. Ever since the holy Quran came on earth, Islam has been acknowledged as the religion of peace. The Quran's arrival changed humanity to a great extent declaring freedom as a human right and emphasizing significantly on non-discrimination, social justice and simple way of life. A prayer made on the night of Lailatul Qadr is as more effective than prayers made for a thousand months. In the holy Quran, Allah (Swt) declares that He has revealed the Quran on His most favourite night (Quran 2:185). It is a night of peace and glory and the angels come down to earth with Almighty Allah's blessings.
The gates to Heaven are open, the gates of Hell are closed during Ramzan and the devils are chained up. (Sahih Al -Bukhari, Book 30, Hadith 9).
The performance of mandatory donation, Jakat, is required to be completed during Ramzan. Both Jakat and voluntary charity (Sadaqah) are highly recommended to be performed during this month. It is also a Sadaqah to offer Iftar (food taken at the time of breaking fast) to others who are fasting.
Fasting must be intentional and performed by a valid Niyath (good intention). The fasting time comprises of 'until the white thread of dawn appear distinct', and ending with sunset. A special prayer, Taraweeh, is widely practiced which is generally performed with the 'Isha prayer.
Eid-ul-Fitr is observed by Muslims throughout the globe as the greatest celebration of the year. After a whole month's fasting, patience and prayer, comes this joyous occasion. It is observed on the first day of Arabic month Shaowal.
The celebration and the traditions, however, have changed to a considerable extent in the last few decades. It is particularly true in case of Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh, during the 70s, 80s or even in early 90s, Eid was maintained in a very simple but befitting manner. It was full of traditions and sincerity rather than mere demonstration. It was not very jaunty but there was pure delight. There were no competitive Eid markets but still people would go shopping according to their abilities. People would rely more on food prepared at their homes on Eid. Hand made shemai (fine dried flour noodles prepared as a dessert), rice powder cakes, roti, khichuri (golden rice), local chicken curry - these were the main food on the occasion of Eid. Children were happy with new dress and pair of new shoes. They would hide the dresses and shoes to keep them as a secret from their friends and cousins. The surprise was revealed only on Eid day! Everyone including children would get up very early in the morning on Eid day, have bath, offer the special Eid prayer in mosque and put on new clothing. Children used to walk to other villagers' or neighbours' houses to show their new outfits. Eid Salami/ Eidee (a small amount of money children would get on showing respect to elders on Eid) was a very common practice.
From the late 90s, more particularly in the early years of 21st century, the impact of new technology and business ideas over social and religious practices has been quite remarkable. Departure from the conventional practices during Ramzan and on Eid celebration became evident. Nowadays, people do not have enough time for spending on Ramzan and Eid traditions like it used to be in the old days. Although some practices are still prevailing, new market economy and technological advancement have caused a great shift from the traditional way of celebrating Ramzan and Eid. For instance, people now prefer processed or packaged food more than food prepared at home as it saves time and labour. Likewise, people are also becoming more and more dependent on online shopping for all kinds of products and services. The increased number of online stores and the traffic over those stores during Ramzan and before Eid are notable. It has become a fashion superseding the original concept of fashion. A Section of people are not content with few things and they want more to display. It is reported that every year the amount spent in Eid shopping is increasing and it is almost double the amount spent during the same time of the year just one or two decades earlier. People seldom visit others on Eid as they prefer to stay at home and rest. The innocent charm of Eid is felt being diminished some way. Technology's deleterious effects on the approach towards Ramzan and Eid celebrations are noted with great concern.
However, as Muslims we observe Ramzan and celebrate Eid and follow the Commandments of Allah Rabul 'Alameen basing on the true essence of these holy occasions.
(The writer is Columnist and Assistant Professor of Law, Northern University Bangladesh)