The past week saw Longford’s Muslim community commemorate the end of the holy month of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr - the Festival of Breaking of the Fast.
“No fasting is permitted on that day; it’s a celebration of the end of Ramadan and the breaking of the fasting from dawn until sunset during that month,” explained Sarfraz Gull, a local businessman who attends the Islamic Centre on Longford town’s Athlone Road.
“We go to the mosque and the Imam will make a speech and we will pray,” his friend, Hassan Rasheed, added. “Sometimes we have a feast at the mosque but this year we decided to celebrate in our homes and donate the money to charity instead.”
Indeed, charity plays a central role throughout the month of Ramadan, with Muslims obligated to give alms which form one of the five pillars of their religion.
“It is called ‘zakat’, which means ‘that which purifies’,” Sarfraz said. “It is a religious tax, and customarily Muslims donate 2.5 per cent of all their wealth above a minimum amount known as ‘nisab’.
Hassan continued by outlining the significance of the month of Ramadan: “The month lasts 29 or 30 days, based on the sighting of the crescent moon. It’s observed worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad, peace be upon him. Observing it is another of the five pillars.”
Sarfraz continues: “Allah commands each Muslim to fast during Ramadan, as mentioned in the Quran. In addition to our five prayers each day, we also have special prayers called Traveeh at night-time, following the normal last prayer, Isha.”
In addition, the month is divided into three sections called Ashra, with the last 10 days having added significance.
“There is the Ashra of Mercy of Allah, the Ashra of Forgiveness of Allah, and the Ashra of Salvation - or Refuge from Hellfire,” Sarfraz reveals. “There are extra blessings during the last 10 days, as during this time, Allah sent down the angel Jibreel from the heavens to congratulate the people who are praying. That night is better than 1,000 months and is one of the major nights of Ramadan. There is an entire chapter dedicated to it in the Quran - ‘Surat Al-Qadar’.”
Hassan went on to say that Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual relations during the fast, which lasts from sunrise until sunset.
“We are also instructed to avoid sinful behaviour such as fighting, lying, insults, and cursing.
“The spiritual rewards for fasting are believed to be multiplied during Ramadan.”