Muslims in Mauritius will start fasting on Thursday if the moon is visible on Wednesday night; otherwise it’ll be on Friday. This will mark the start of the holy month of Ramadhan, the ninth month in the Islamic (lunar) calendar.
Fasting (“Sawm” in arabic), which is one of the five pillars of Islam, is practised throughout this month. Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse between husband and wife from dawn (“fajr” – the first prayer of the day) to sunset (“maghrib” – the fourth prayer).
It is a time when they make special effort into following the teachings of Islam and refraining from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic remarks, backbiting, and gossip. They are encouraged to read the Holy Qur’an (which was revealed during this month) as much as they can and perform special prayers (“tarawih”) at night after the “Isha” prayer. It is said benefits multiply several-fold for those who devote in extra prayers and give alms (“zakat”) during this month.
Fasting is however exempted to those who are sick, nursing, traveling and pregnant women. Women are not allowed to fast during their (menstrual) period. Any number of days missed should be replaced before the next fasting month.
Those who observe fast get up early and take their meal (known as “sehri” or “suhoor”) before sunrise only to eat again (“iftar”) at sunset. At night they are free to eat, drink and do whatever they want provided it is within the limits permitted by Islam.
For the believer fasting inculcates a sense of brotherhood and solidarity among fellow muslims, especially when they share meals together to break their fast. It helps develop patience, tolerance, self-control of personal conduct and temper and strengthen one’s faith. It cleanses the inner soul. It is an act of obedience to the Almighty Allah and constitutes an atonement of faults and misdeeds.
The last ten days of the month is of special importance and retribution. Some believers (male) take a retreat in the mosque during this decade and they concentrate in intense prayers in quest of the blessed night of “Lailat-ul-Qadr”. This is the 27th night of the month when the Qur’an is said to have been descended in the earthly heavens in its entirety.
Let this month be a pious one for those who’d be observing the Ramadhan fast.