Coimbatore’s devout Muslims tell that the month-long fast they observe is not merely about abstinence from food. It is about strengthening faith and spreading harmony

The first Azaan from the mosque breaks the silence of an early dawn. It announces Suhoor — the prescribed time for Muslims to eat the pre-dawn meal during the holy month of Ramadan. They finish the meal before the next Azaan, the call for Fajr, the first prayer of the day. After this, they begin their fast where they abstain from food and water all day.

Immediately after sunset, the faithful observe Iftar, the evening meal. While the men gather at mosques, women get together at homes, and break the fast with dates and water. After the evening prayers, Maghrib, they eat a wholesome meal that includes fruits, juices, kanji with mint chutney, short eats such as vadai and samosas, and sweets.

The centuries-old tradition is followed in every devout Muslim household during the month of Ramadan. Fasting is considered one of the five main pillars of Islam. They begin the fast after they sight the new moon of Ramadan. It is believed that the Holy Quran was revealed during this ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

Spiritual practice

“Fasting is a spiritual practice that makes you closer to God,” says advocate G.M. Haneefa, Secretary (Law) of Coimbatore District United Jamaath. He is secretary of The Trust of Holy Quran that has translated the Holy Quran into Tamil for free distribution (For details, call 94437-20992 and 96294-36053).

Staying without food and water reaffirms obedience to Allah. It teaches patience and self-control, and strengthens faith. One refrains from evil thoughts and activities. “The holy month is an opportunity to stay spiritually connected,” says Haneefa. Those who can afford it practise Zakat or charity. They contribute a portion of their wealth to the poor. “The idea is to uplift the needy and make them self sufficient.”

Basheera, Haneefa’s wife says she has been observing this fast right from the time she was a seven-year-old. “Once you complete 10 years of age, fasting becomes a must for many Muslims. We avoid watching TV during this month.” Along with the sense of togetherness and harmony, Ramadan is also a time for sharing food at Iftar.

Haneefa says it promotes communal harmony. “Non-Muslims invite their Muslim friends and treat them to a sumptuous meal after a day’s fasting. This paves the way for a lot of goodwill.” Parotta, appam, idlis, chappatis, fried rice, and biriyani, among other food items, are given to mosques for distribution during Iftar.

S.M.S. Alima, who has been fasting from the time she was in class VIII, says the last 10 days of Ramadan are more significant because it is believed that the Holy Quran was revealed during one of these nights. The Iftar menu at her house includes juices with cooling jamja seeds, Ceylon egg parotta, jaalor parotta, pineapple soufflé, fruit salad and caramel custard. “While breaking the fast, it is considered sacred to sip Zamzam water (the holy water from Macca),” she says.

For H. Nilofernisha, who remembers her childhood in Kerala, Ramadan always meant bonding with family. “Male members woke us up at 1 a.m. when they returned home from the mosque after special prayers and discourses. We prepared rice and sambar, and had a wholesome meal at SuhoorAzaan. Dinner included special dishes such as idiyappam and coconut milk, and pathiri and curry. The family members prayed together.”

The fast ends with the beginning of the new moon of Shawwaal. And, the Eid celebrations begin.

Recipe for kanji

Add oil in a pan. Saute cinnamon, clove and elaichi, onion, tomato, mint, and coriander. Add water and allow it to boil.

Add raw rice (broken rice) and yellow moong dal and cook.

Once the kanji is done, add grated coconut or coconut milk.