Ramzan prayer, into the wee hours

Taraweeh prayer at Ghata masjid or Zeenat-ul masjid (mosques), Daryaganj in Old Delhi   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The year was 610. It was Ramzan, and Muhammad, the husband of Khadijah, would retire to the cave of Hira to contemplate in solitude. Right from infancy, he had been known to move away from the crowd to ponder over issues of life, the reasons for existence, and so on. As a young boy, when he used to graze goats, to used to go to the edge of the city in Makkah for some peace and quiet.

The habit never left him. However, that night in Hira was no ordinary night for him, or for humanity. As he sat there in complete isolation, Muhammad was visited by an angel, Jibrail. He said, “Iqra Bismikallazee,” (Read, in the name of the Lord). Following Muhammad’s inability to read or write, the angel asked him to repeat after him. Thus came about the first verse of the Quran. The process was to continue for another 22 years or so with the angel asking him to repeat after him. It went on to 114 surahs and 30 chapters. The book being completed only a little before the Prophet breathed his last in 632.

Incidentally, soon after teaching him the first verse, the angel taught him too the way to offer prayer, the daily salat which Muslims continue to offer the same way today. In fact, to this day, Muslims across the world endeavour to finish at least one reading of the holy book in Ramzan. It is also the month in which special taraveeh prayers are held every evening post-Isha, the last prayer of the day.

In taraweeh, the entire Quran is recited. In a place like Delhi, there is plenty of choice for the faithful. For those short of time, not of faith, Old Delhi gives the rarest of rare options wherein a special nightlong session of taraweeh is held. In about six hours, the Quran is recited in an extremely fast-paced manner. The prayers start approximately two hours after iftar, and end about half an hour before suhour.

Then there are taraweeh prayers held across six to 15 days of the month of Ramzan. Here too, the rendition is brisk-paced, but certainly not breathless. This kind of taraweeh is often availed by men, who are not too sure of being in the city towards the end of Ramzan, as most stay in Delhi for their bread and butter. Closer to Eid, they head home to townships across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. For them, completing a listening of the Quran in 15 days works out just fine. Such options are provided by mosques across Delhi. There are mosques in Muslim dominated localities like Okhla, Nizamuddin, Inderlok, Seelampur, etc., which offer a variety within this segment. Thus, one can join taraweeh prayers on the ground floor for 15 days. Or go to the first floor, which offers complete recital of the Quranic verses in 10 days. And if one goes higher, to the second floor, the deed is done in six days! Incidentally, haafiz (those who have memorised the Quran) are in great demand at this time, with many coming over from far off places specially for Ramzan.

However, it is the mosques which have taraweeh for 27 or 29 nights that attract the most abiding of the faithful. For the hundreds of devotees that throng each mosque every evening, the mosques are illuminated from the night of the new moon, including the historic Jama Masjid. Often, new rugs are spread, chandeliers cleaned and dusted, even walls freshly painted. Some mosques, like the New Delhi Jama Masjid look after the devotees better than others. Here a mineral water bottle is kept in front of each devotee so that he can quench his thirst across the prayer that goes up to 90 minutes. What is more important is, here, the imam often gives a brief translation of Arabic verses in every day Urdu and English to the assembly. Among the devotees here are former vice president Hamid Ansari besides political leaders from across the spectrum.

Things are totally different in far flung east Delhi. Here, most namaazis are blue collar workers. Thus almost every mosque ends up with stalls of eateries, and everyday utility items outside. Some sell caps, others prayer beads or rosary. Still others sell dates for iftar the next evening, or pheni, a sweet delicacy for suhour meal. Most buyers take in small quantity every day, preferring to keep some cash in the pocket. However, in the heart of the city, in Old Delhi's historic Jama Masjid, or Fatehpuri Masjid, cash flows easily. The eateries do brisk business selling fried fish and chicken, kabab, biryani, shahi tukda, and pakodas.

It goes on till around 3.45 in the morning. Then the muezzin calls for another prayer. And another fast starts. And the Quran that began to be revealed at Hira in 610 continues to be read in 2018.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 10:00:08 PM |

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