Old and young celebrate Ramzan with fervour and gaiety

There could not be a better way to understand hunger than to experience it personally. Following it precisely, thousands of Muslim men, women and children here completed a month long fasting period on Monday with the celebration of their annual festival Eid-ul-Fitr.

Completion of Ramzan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, was marked by special prayers offered at various mosques, distribution of alms to the poor and needy, preparation of lip smacking food, sharing it with friends and relatives and cheering children up with gifts and pocket money.

Islam is only 1,430 years old as against the ongoing Common Era of 2009. It is the youngest of all major religions in the world. Yet, it is the second largest religion with a following of over 1.3 billion people spread across the globe. Fasting is one among the five practices made mandatory for those who follow the religion.

The four other duties include acceptance of Allah as the only God and Prophet Mohamed as his messenger; reciting prayers five times a day; giving alms; and going to Mecca on a pilgrimage. Besides Eid-ul-Fitr, the other main festival of Muslims is Eid-ul-Zuha or Bakrid celebrated during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.

Prophet Mohamed was born in the Arabian town of Mecca in the end of the sixth century. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by his paternal uncle who was the leader of the Hashim clan. It was one of the smaller segments of Quraysh tribe, followers of a cult that attributed divine powers to objects such as the sun, moon, rocks and trees.

The Prophet received revelations from Allah through visions and sounds which initially terrified him. These utterances were subsequently collected to form the Koran, the holy book of Muslims. Monotheism, belief on the day of judgement and existence of heaven and hell, among other things, formed the basis of the revelations.

The Quraysh tribesmen in Mecca got enraged when the Prophet declared polytheism as incorrect and sinful. This forced him to migrate to Yathrib (which later came to be known as Medina) along with his followers thereby transforming them from a small religious group to a religio-political community.

He returned to Mecca after a decade and became one of the most powerful political leaders in Western Arabia. His community had expanded far and wide before his death in 632 A.D. Subsequently, many groups tried to sever their ties with Medina leading to the emergence of religious leaders called Caliphs (successors of the prophet).

The Prophet’s father-in-law Abu Bakr was the first Caliph. According to the Oxford History of Islam, the Caliphs saw their mission as Jihad or militant effort to combat evil and to spread Muhammad’s message of monotheism and righteousness. They also acted against those who made false claims of being the next prophet.

Dissension arose under the third Caliph Uthman who was accused of not ruling with fairness and favouring his relatives when making lucrative appointments. He was ultimately murdered which led to the first civil war and main sectarian sub-divisions (Shia, Sunni and Kharijite) of the community.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National