Ramzan Special | Faith

The Royal tradition

The Amir Mahal

The Amir Mahal   | Photo Credit: V. V. KRISHNAN

Ramzan is observed meticulously at Amir Mahal, the seat of the Prince of Arcot

“Ramzan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as guidance to man and clear proof of guidance, and criterion (of falsehood and truth). So when you see the new moon you should fast the whole month...” (Quran 2:185).

The Prince of Arcot (Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali) with his family members on the occasion of Ramzan. Courtesy:

The Prince of Arcot (Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali) with his family members on the occasion of Ramzan. Courtesy:   | Photo Credit: Prince of Arcot

 

Ramadan, also known as Ramzan, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting from dawn until sunset, to commemorate the first revelation of the No'ble Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), according to Islamic belief. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Fasting is obligatory for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, travelling, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, chronically ill or menstruating.

Things to avoid

While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking and engaging in sexual relations. Muslims are also instructed to refrain from sinful behaviour that may negate the reward of fasting, such as false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.). Indeed, the essence of fasting in Ramadan is spiritual. Nevertheless, this holy month also offers a number of benefits for both the mind and body. There are numerous health benefits in observing fast. Ramadan may be the perfect opportunity to restrain yourself and get back on track of eating healthy. When you fast, you learn to control your cravings. As a result, by the end of Ramadan you’ll have a stronger will-power and you will have regained the strength to say no to unhealthy food and lifestyle.

Pre-fast meals before dawn are referred as Suhour, while the post-fast breaking feasts after sunset are called Iftar. Dates are usually the first food consumed to break the fast. Following that, Muslims generally adjourn for the evening prayer (Maghrib), the fourth of the five daily prayers, after which the main meal is served. This is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities.

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the Iftar Feast

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the Iftar Feast   | Photo Credit: Picture courtesy: The Prince of Arcot

 

This holy month of Ramadan also brings unity and peace among people of all religions, which also promotes communal harmony and universal brotherhood. Spiritual rewards for fasting are also believed to be multiplied within the month of Ramadan. Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes increased offering of prayers, recitation of the No'ble Qur'an and an increase of doing good deeds and charity.

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity, which is called Zakat.

Zakat is very important in Islam. Often translated as ‘the poor-rate’ is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam. A fixed percentage of 2.5 per cent of the person's savings is required to be given to the poor. In Islam, all good deeds are more handsomely rewarded during Ramadan than in any other month of the year. Consequently, many will choose this time to give a large portion, if not all, of the Zakat that they are obligated to give. In addition, many will also use this time to give a larger portion of charity in order to maximise the reward that will await them at the Last Judgement.

According to the No'ble Qur'an, fasting also obligatory for prior nations, is a way to attain God consciousness. God proclaimed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that fasting for His sake was not an innovation in Islam, but rather an obligation practised by those truly devoted to the Oneness of God. Common greetings during Ramadan are ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ or ‘Ramadan Kareem,’ which wish the recipient a blessed or generous Ramadan.

Muhammad Ali Wallajah, Nawab of the Carnatic/Arcot (1749-1795) A.D., was a sovereign and independent ruler of this part of the country. During his Nawabdom period, he constructed several mosques in the South and the Wallajah Big Mosque, situated in Triplicane, Chennai, was constructed 230 years ago. This is one of the oldest mosques in South India. Today, the Prince of Arcot Endowments, a statute body, governed by a separate Act, called the Prince of Arcot Endowment Act II of 1923, manages and administers the affairs of the charitable institution.

The Prince of Arcot is the administrator of the Endowments, which continue to render yeoman service to the people by providing ganji at several mosques, in Chennai and also in other places, during the holy month of Ramadan. Also, poor feeding, on a daily basis is being offered in Tiruchi, where many mosques of the Endowments are built by Nawab Wallajah.

This writer, the Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, holds Iftar and Ramadan Eid Banquets, at his ancestral historic home, Amir Mahal, in Chennai, by inviting a large number of guests, including the community members and a cross section of people belonging to different faiths every year. On many occasions, the State Governor and Chief Minister have visited the palace, as chief guest.

Mother’s special

In Amir Mahal, my whole family observes fast for 30 days. During Iftar, my mother, who is now 94 years old, used to prepare certain delicious food items for us. My wife, Begum Sayeeda Abdul Ali, has learnt some of them from her mother-in-law. But still, my mother has not disclosed certain special recipes, which she is keeping top secret even today.

All preparation for Iftar is arranged by my wife and my daughter-in-law, Begum Seema Asif Ali. Special Ramadan favourites, like Ganji, Somosa and Sheerkhurma are delicious dishes.

We also arrange Iftar, with our relatives, friends and staff and their family members in the prayer hall of Amir Mahal for 30 days. The old-time tradition of drum-beating (Naghara) for the breaking of the fast continues in Amir Mahal at sunset.

 

I remember the day, April 18, 1991. At 7 p. m. the former Prime Minister of India, the late Rajiv Gandhi paid a visit to our ancestral historic and official residence, Amir Mahal, in Chennai, on the happy occasion of Ramadan Eid-Al-Fitr. We hosted a grand and befitting Eid Banquet in his honour. We had arranged a sumptuous dinner of old Amir Mahal recipes, which he liked and did full justice.

We had invited about 200 guests on the occasion, which included eminent people from all communities, politicians, diplomats, bureaucrats, businessmen etc. But to our surprise there were more than 400 people, many of whom were not known and invited. We weren’t able to control the crowd or the police. People surrounded Rajivji unable to take their eyes off his charismatic personality. Many took autographs. After an hour and a half, dinner was over and Rajivji expressed his happiness and desire to visit Amir Mahal again with Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, but fate snatched him away from us.

Rajivji’s grandfather, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, had also honoured us by visiting Amir Mahal — twice, as Prime Minister of India, in 1955 and 1963.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 11:57:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/the-prince-of-arcot-on-history-and-the-amir-mahal-tradition/article24161639.ece

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