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Eid al-Fitr and Ramadan in the Philippines

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Muslims attend a mass morning prayer outside the Blue Mosque to mark the end of Ramadan in Taguig City

Filipino Muslims during Ramadan

Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr are two of the most important celebrations in Islam religion. During the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Eid al-Fitr was declared a national holiday in the Philippines.

 

A Month of Scorching Heat

This month, thousands of Muslims here in the Philippines will follow the observance of Ramadan. Ramadan is a holy Islamic month that takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon. On the Gregorian calendar (the modern calendar that we use) the date of Ramadan varies yearly.

This year, Ramadan will take place on 09 July 2013. After a month, Ramadan ends with a festival called Eid al-Fitr. Eid al-Fitr begins on the sunset of 08 August 2013 and the main celebration happens on the next day 09 August 2013.

During Ramadan, Muslims around the world observe fasting and prayer for a whole month. The word “Ramadan” originated from the Arabic word “ramida” or “ar-ramad” which means scorching heat or dryness. Adult Muslims are encouraged to fast. Those who are exempted are Muslims who are ill, travelling, pregnant, diabetic or females with menstrual period.

Fasting is done from sunrise until sunset. During fasting, Muslims do not eat food or drink liquids. They also refrain from smoking or engage in sexual relations. It is their belief that fasting has its many rewards and if fasting is done during Ramadan, the rewards are multiplied. These practices during Ramadan are applied around the world, including the Philippines and other Asian countries with Muslim population like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, etc.

Muslim beliefs during Ramadan:

  • Muslims believe that their holy book (called the Qur’an or Koran) was first revealed during this month of the Islamic calendar.

  • They also believe that during Ramadan, the gates of heaven are open.

  • The gates of hell are closed and devils are chained in hell.

Ramadan is more than about fasting. It is a month of “rebuilding the spiritual strength”. It is a time of prayer, reflection, self-denial and leading a holy life, thus avoiding sin. For that, Muslims also offer more prayers and recite the Qur’an.

 

Ramadan Explained by a Teen

I often hear about Ramadan among the Muslims that I meet in shopping malls in Greenhills, but I was unaware that this holy Islamic month requires great discipline and sacrifice. Although Ramadan requires fasting for adults, some Muslim families also require their sons to participate in fasting and prayer even though they are only 9 years old. It depends on the decision of the parents.

Eight years ago, I was a home teacher for the children of a business expat from Pakistan. It is through my encounter with this wonderful Muslim family that I had a better understanding of Ramadan.

Here in the Philippines, most private schools are Catholic schools. It is common in some Catholic schools to have non-Catholic foreign students. That was the case of my Pakistani students living in Manila. They are Muslims but they were given an option to either attend or not attend Catholic classes in their school.

One of my foreign students was only 14 years old. At that young age, he was participating in the prayer and fasting during Ramadan. He comes home from school very thirsty and hungry. He told me that they all fast from sunrise to sunset. He can only eat after sunset and he wakes up before sunrise to eat breakfast.

Fasting means no food and no water. This type of practice is very difficult especially for a child who has to be in school all day.

Fasting is much harder on days when he had P.E. class, because he is deprived of water or drinks after running or playing basketball for an hour. And then, with this dehydrated and starved condition, this boy had to be alert and sharp-minded for the rest of the day in school for his academic subjects. It entails a lot of sacrifice.

Upon understanding how much sacrifice is involved during Ramadan, I now have more respect for pious Muslims for their obedience to the Islam religion.

Despite the difficulties of going to school feeling hungry and very thirsty, my young student showed no signs of anxiety. I admire his fortitude. I never hear him complain or act grouchy. In fact, when he comes home after school, he pauses for a while to rest, and then he reads the Qur’an to prepare himself for an afternoon prayer before dinner.

One time, I asked him what is his motivation or reason for fasting. He said two things that struck me.

First, he said his father wants him to go fasting and to sacrifice due to the spiritual merits and blessings that he will receive in return. That thought alone can give you strength to overcome the inconvenience of being hungry and thirsty. Second, he said that sometimes we need to experience lack of water or food to remind us that “God (Allah) is all we need.”

For someone so young, it is nice to hear words of wisdom about humility, discipline and obedience to one’s religion. “God is all we need.” It is such an inspirational reminder from a teen who gave his opinion about Ramadan.

Through him I had a better understanding of Ramadan and the significance of humility regardless of religion. It is through humility that one becomes holy and closer to God.

 

The Recitation and Ramadan

Koran

The Qur’an or Koran: In Islam, this holy book contains the verbatim word of Allah, revealed by Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad.

To better understand Muslims during Ramadan, we first need to know about the holy book that guides them in faith and practice. In Islam religion, Qur’an  is their central religious text. Muslims study and follow the teachings from this book. The word Qur’an literally means “the recitation”.

Muslims believe that this holy book is the verbatim word of Allah (God). Muslims also believe that the Qur’an was verbally and gradually revealed through Angel Gabriel (“Jibril” or “Gibril”) from Allah to the prophet Muhammad within a range of approximately 23 years. For Muslims, the Qur’an is the main miracle of Muhammad which is a great proof that he is indeed a prophet of Allah. The Qur’an is also a summit of several divine messages beginning with the messages revealed to Adam (who is regarded as the first prophet) and then the Scrolls of Abraham (“Suhuf Ibrahim”), the Torah of Moses (also called “Tawrat” or “Pentateuch”), the Book of Psalms of King David (called the “Zabur” or “Tehillim”) and the Gospel of Jesus (called “Injil”).

AngelGabriel

In this 15th century Islamic art, Angel Gabriel is revealing the Qur’an to Muhammad.

 

The Qur’an is a book of guidance and also a book that narrates in detail the specific historical events with implications of moral significance of the events narrated. During prayers and recitation of the Qur’an, it is only recited in Arabic. In this book, verse 15:9 mentions the preservation of the Noble Qur’an and that Allah will protect it from corruption.


A Time of Forgiveness and Making Amends

After a month-long period of fasting and prayer during Ramadan, a festival called Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. The word “Eid” in Arabic means “festivity.” Eid al-Fitr means “festival of fast-breaking.”

morning_sojourn

(Left) Luneta Park, Manila – Filipino Muslim women during a morning prayer and mass during the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. (Right) A day of peace, thanksgiving, forgiveness and cheerful celebration. Filipino Muslims at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. They are praying in the morning of Eid al-Fitr.

 

Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Fitr or Id al-Fitr. This is considered the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal. Eid al-Fitr is also known as the Sugar Feast, the Sweet Festival or the Lesser Feast.  The feasting lasts to up to three days in some countries like United Arab Emirates and Jordan. 

Here in the Philippines, Republic Act No. 9177 was signed by President Arroyo on 13 November 2002 declaring that the first day of Shawwal in the Islamic calendar as a national holiday for the observance of Eid al-Fitr Festival.

This year, it will start at sunset of 08 August 2013 and the bigger celebration on the morning of 09 August 2013.

Aside from being a day that ends Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr is also a celebration marked by beautiful home decorations and Muslims wearing their best clothes. There are also processions in the streets, special services out in the mosques, and a special meal during daytime which is the first daytime meal for Muslims after a month of fasting. Most importantly, Eid al-Fitr is a time of forgiveness, making amends and thanksgiving to Allah for the strength and self-control during Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr is a time for prayer, thanksgiving, and doing works of charity for the poor.

Muslim families share a meal as they hold a picnic after a prayer session to celebrate Eid al-Fitr at Manila's Luneta Park

Eid al-Fitr Feast: Filipino Muslims sharing food in a picnic after the morning prayer at Luneta Park in Manila.

 

The most important part of the celebration is sharing food and gifts with family and friends. The prophet Muhammad told his disciples to “Eat together, and do not separate, for the blessing is in the company.”

 

 

Author: Expatch Editorial Team
  

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Photo Source:

Muslim boy in a crowd – http://halalguide.com.ph/muslimholidays/

The Noble Qur’an – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WLM_-_roel1943_-_Koran.jpg

The Angel Gabriel and Muhammed, 15th century Islamic art – http://www.examiner.com/article/angels-quran-1 and Google Images

Muslim women in Manila’s Luneta Park – http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/metro-manila/08/19/12/muslim-filipinos-celebrate-eid-al-fitr

Eid al-Fitr, Filipino Muslims at the Qurino Grandstand, Manila – http://ibnlive.in.com/photogallery/4735-9.html

Filipino Muslims with festive food – http://www.usasianpost.com/aquino-leads-nation-in-celebrating-eidl-fitr/

 

 

 

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