Muslims around the world are currently fasting and praying as they observe the Holy Month of Ramadan. In Tobago, Muslims are flocking to the Masjid Al Tawbah in Lowlands daily to pray and break their fast.
For Director of the Tobago Muslim Organisation Kameel Ali, Ramadan is a very significant month in the Muslim calendar.
He told Newsday much more Muslims have been coming to the mosque "because of the blessings in the month of Ramadan."
He said: “Ramadan is one of the months on the Islamic calendar; we have 12 months and Ramadan is one of the months that fasting was prescribed. Fasting was ordained in the month of Ramadan and it's also the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed,” he said, noting that there are five pillars of Islam which Muslims follow. He said during Ramadan Muslims hold firmly to these pillars.
“This year Ramadan began on May 6, about ten days earlier than when we started last year. We determine the months by the moon instead of the sun. The Islamic calendar is actually about ten days less than the Gregorian calendar.”
To prepare for their daily fast, Mulsims wake early for a pre-dawn meal called suhoor.
Ali said Ramadan comes from the word Ramdha, which means to burn. Ramadan is a month of removing sins from a person and getting closer to Allah.
Muslims must stay away from evil and things that might be illegal or illicit. He said during this period of fasting, food and drink are just two of the things that Muslims abstain from at dawn until sunset.
“They also abstain from any marital relations during that time… total abstinence from the break of dawn to sunset. Normally, we go to mosque every afternoon and we break our fast with our brothers and sisters, we break our fast and then after that we say prayers, then we have dinner. It really is a time we get together at the mosque to break our fast. The fast is usually between 29 and 30 days."
Muslims usually break the fast with a small meal, iftar.
Ali said prayer is an important part of fasting and is usually done five times per day during Ramadan.
"We have additional prayers in the night when we go to mosque, which we call the Taraweeh prayers; it’s like additional prayers we do during the month of Ramadan, and that prayer is done only in the month of Ramadan.”
Taraweeh prayers are observed after the evening meal, either at home or in congregations at mosques.
Ali said unlike the Christian Lenten fast where certain types of food are not eaten, not even water is consumed during the Muslim fast. The fasting, he said, acts as a reset for the mind, body and soul, as Ramadan is seen also as a month of gratitude, as by abstaining from food and water during the day, the faithful are reminded of those less fortunate.
Muslims mark the end of Ramadan with a celebration and feasting known as Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast. The public holiday for Eid-ul-Fitr has been declared on June 5.