Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, which began this week, is celebrated by Muslims worldwide marked by fasting, abstaining from foods, sex and smoking from dawn to dusk. It is a time for soul cleansing and for strengthening spiritual bonds. Ramadan 2013 began in the evening of Monday, July 8 and ends in the evening of Wednesday, August 7.
Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity with approximately 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. Two-thirds of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region, although the religion’s association with the Mideast and North Africa is strong, in fact, according to Pew, more Muslims live in India and Pakistan (344 million) than in a combined Mideast and North Africa (317 million).
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in hadiths. The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, which means scorching heat or dryness. Fasting is fardh (obligatory) for adult Muslims, except those who are ill, travelling, pregnant, diabetic or going through their menstrual cycle.
This year, the celebratory mood is being sustained for many by the success of the revolution against President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, who was overthrown last week after millions of people took to the streets to demand that he go. The country’s powerful military was happy to step in, and did so with great force.
A few days ago the Muslim Brotherhood had the upper hand after a shooting at the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo left 54 dead and more than 300 wounded. The Egyptian military promised to pull back the violence as the nation starts its celebration of Ramadan. The army asked for trust, but that will take some time to earn, and the detention of more than 600 demonstrators probably doesn’t help.
The Muslim month of Ramadan has allowed the craziness of Egypt’s latest revolt to abruptly subside to the return of peace. Ramadan is generally a time of feasting as well as fasting during which Egyptians sleep late, work little and party through the night.
“The economy will get better, the workers will work harder, the tourists will come back, and in one or two months Egypt will be beautiful again,” said 80-year-old Ahmed Hassan Mohammed. “We have been living in chaos, and the Brotherhood called it a revolution. And now we’re hoping for a new and better start,” said 55-year-old Mahmoud Ahmed who voted for the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Morsi and then joined the demonstrations against him.
Whether the optimism is justified or not has yet to be realized. Egyptians are dangerously split between those who want Morsi reinstated and those who are glad to see him gone. What many ordinary Egyptians deem as a new revolution, Morsi supporters denounce as a coup.
The Brotherhood has called for a million-man march on Friday. They have vowed to keep the protests peaceful, despite the bloodshed on Monday. “We will continue our peaceful resistance to the bloody military coup,” it said in a statement.
Ramadan holds a different meaning for the few thousand Morsi supporters who have relocated to the mosque, seeking shade from the heat under canvas awnings and in tents and vowing not to move until their president is reinstated. “This is a month of prayer and victory, and we will be victorious,” said Mohammed Sayed Shorbaki, 48, who traveled to Cairo to join the camp from the Nile Delta town of Mansoura on the day that Morsi was ousted.
In the Sayeda Zeinab market, vendors are angry about the failure in trade caused by the latest unrest and the Muslim Brotherhood’s mismanagement of the economy. “In previous Ramadans we were always busy,” said Hussein al-Rasheed, one of the vendors in the marketplace. “It’s because of the Muslim Brotherhood. They are liars. I voted for Morsi in the (2012) elections because I thought he was going to be better than (rival presidential candidate) Ahmed Shafiq. But he was worse than all of them.”
One Mursi support said, “The most difficult thing is to see a Muslim killed by another Egyptian Muslim. We are starting Ramadan but we don’t feel its happiness, how can I feel happy when our brothers were killed?” Another supporter stated, “I am sure that the advent of Ramadan will bring joy to the Egyptian people and Mohamed Mursi will be among us once again, praying with us, and God willing we will celebrate Eid together.”
Only time will tell.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)