Significance of Ramadan and iftar at Heartbeat

 

Significance of Ramadan
and
iftar at Heartbeat

Some 250 people, including non-Muslims, were invited for iftar (breaking of the Ramadan fast) event on Saturday evening of 25 May 2019 at the Heartbeat community hub in Bedok, officially known as Heartbeat@Bedok.

The Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC) of eight community centres in the East Coast GRC district organised the iftar function.

Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Mayor of the South East District of Singapore, Senior Minister of State for Defence & Foreign Affairs and Advisor for East Coast GRC, was the Guest-of-Honour.

Today (28 May) is the 23rd  day of the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims have now been fasting for 23 days.

Details of the iftar event at Heartbeat@Bedok.

As the invited guests were streaming in and, while waiting for the arrival of the Guest-of-Honour, three converts to Islam, (from left) Ms Nur Zafirah, Mr Ismail and Mr Firdaus, shared their fasting experiences. 

Guest-of-Honour Dr Maliki addressing the guests while they waited for the azan (Islamic prayer call), which for 25 May 2019 was 7:09 pm in Singapore, before breaking their fast.  The other officials on stage too took turns to address to the gathering.

In Ramadan, apart from fasting to develop self-restraint and spirituality by reading the Qur’an and performing extra prayers than the usual daily five, is also the time for the Muslim to be more humble, charitable and forgiving.

Divine Revelations  

Ramadan is also a holy month for Muslims because of Nuzul ul-Qur’an or the commemoration of the commencement of the Qur’an on 17 Ramadan.

It was in 610 AD on 17 Ramadan that Muhammad, when he was 40 years old, received the following Message:

“Proclaim! In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher Who created,
Created man from a clot of congealed blood,
Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,
He who taught the use of the pen,
Taught man that which he knew not.”

The above 5-verses were the first Revelation Muhammad received from the Archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) sent by God. That was the beginning of Muhammad’s prophethood, and Muslims call him Rasul (Messenger of God). From that time, Muslims add the salutation “Sallallah alaihi wassalam) in respect of his status whenever they utter his name. In English it is “Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him”.

This 5-verse Revelation makes up the first five verses of Chapter 96 called Iqra (Read or Recite).

The Qur’an consists of 114 chapters, and it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) over 23 years. These Revelations were recorded verbatim as and when each of them was received by the Prophet and formed the Qur’an.

From the time the Qur’an was revealed, this Holy Book has been read and recited from memory.  Today, millions of Muslims all over the world are able to recite the whole Qur’an from memory (without reading the words on its pages).   And, being in poetic prose, the Qur’an can be read melodioudly and tunefully that have touched the hearts of not only Muslims but non-Muslims too.

Fasting Message

Invited guests included non-Muslims and they too waited for the azan before enjoying their dinner.

The  first photo show Mr Tan Kim Hock, Vice-Chairman of the Changi-Simei IRCC and Ms Felicia Wee, the Chairwoman.   The iftar gathering at Heartbeat@Bedok also gave the opportunity for some to meet their friends. 

Goodie bags for all guests:  Mdm Sadiah Shahal (left), wife of Dr Maliki, and Dr Maliki giving away the goodie bags.

The Islamic fast is prescribed in the Qur’an. God says: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you…that you may learn self-restraint.” (Chapter 2: Verse 183)

In the next verse, a long verse but in part, God says that if any Muslim is ill or on a long journey, the person need not fast but has to make up the missed number of days any time (after Aidilfitri) but before the next Ramadan starts.

Then, in the following verse, Verse 184, also a long verse but quoted partially here, God says: “Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur’an as a guide to mankind, also clear Signs for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong).  So, every one of you should spend the month in fasting, except a person who is ill, including menstruating women, or on a long journey.

Muslims start their fast before dawn on each day of Ramadan in a meal called sahur.  They break their fast upon an official signal, usually at the call of the azan of the maghrib (after sundown) prayer which is the fourth of the five prayers of the day.

At Heartbeat@Bedok, invited non-Muslims too have been invited to eat together with Muslims when they break the fast. This is a good gesture recommended by Islam.

Ramadan is a compassionate month when Muslims become extra charitable in many ways. Mosques throughout the world offer free iftar meals which often consist of dates as the starter, and distribute, usually porridge, to the poor or to whoever, even to non-Muslims, who want to take home the spiced rice porridge for the family.

Bonding

Food is a good way to bring people together. Inviting non-Muslims, especially the residents of homes of the aged, is a good move being practised in Singapore, a move in building bridges of bonding and understanding among the various ethnic groups.

Among the guests is Dr Daniel Tan who said the iftar gathering is a good time for multi-racial, multi-religious bonding.

About the mix racial guests, Dr Daniel Tan (above), who is the Chairman of the Siglap Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, said: “This annual iftar event brings our multi-racial and multi-religious community together to break the Ramadan fast with our Muslim residents. Understanding each other’s customs and religions is a small step towards bonding, and enhancing racial harmony in our multi-religious country.”

Terawih prayer

Muslims perform the long terawih prayer in Ramadan nights. This prayer can be performed at home together with the family members, in the mosque or even in any hall or at the void decks of flats in congregation after the Isya prayer, the fifth prayer of the day.

After the iftar at Heartbeat, my wife and I and Mr Najib Ahmad and his wife went to the Taqua Mosque in Bilal Lane to continue with our ibadah (acts of devotion) by performing the long night prayer, terawih, and, at the mosque, we met Dr Maliki who was the Guest-of-Honour of the iftar event at the Heartbeat earlier on.

Then, after the terawih prayer at around 10:20 pm, and after most of the worshippers had left, we sat down in the outer hall of the mosque to relax and chat for about 15 minutes while drinking the mosque’s well-known teh tarik served free for all who went to this mosque.

The top photo shows worshippers, after their Isya prayer, waiting to begin their terawih  prayer in the inner hall. The other photo in the outer hall shows some officials of the mosque and us, including Dr Maliki and his wife, after the  terawih prayer was over.

Night of Power

Muslims, in the last ten nights of Ramadan, at home or in the mosque, do more devotional acts because of “Laylatul Qadr (the Night of Power).

Laylatul Qadr is described in the Quran as a night “better than a thousand months” (Qur’an, 97:3). Any devotional deed done on this night, such as reciting the Quran, doing the zikir (remembering Allah) and so on, gains more spiritual merits for the doer.

This chaper is always recited during the terawih prayer in the last ten days of Ramadan.

Aidilfitri

Eid ul-Fitr (Festival of Charity) or often written in Malay as Aidilfitri or mentioned verbally simply as “Hari Raya” (Grand Day) is just round the corner. This year it falls on 5 June. (Roughly translated, “Eid” means “Festival”.)

Hari Raya begins with prayers; first, with the daily suboh prayer (the pre-dawn prayer, the first of the five prayers of the day) which is usually performed at home, and then at around 7:30 am, Muslims, usually males, start to go to the mosques – any mosque for convenience as Muslims do not belong to any mosque but to all mosques – for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri prayer which usually commences at 8:15 am.

Mosques are always over-loaded on Islam’s two Hari Rayas, the other being Eid ul-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) or Hari Raya Haji which is about two months away. When the interior of the mosque is full, you may even see worshippers performing their prayers outside the mosque on concrete spaces with mats laid down or even on bare grounds. (Muslim females are not barred from praying in the mosque on these two Hari Rayas but they do not go to the mosque, knowing that mosque space is limited.)

Selamat Hari Raya

Gift money packets in various lively patterns and colours.  They are given to children of visiting families by the host in keeping with the Hari Raya traditon.  

After the prayer, at around 11 am, Muslims begin to visit their parents who are not living with them and relatives and friends, offering both the verbal salam “Assalamu-alaikum” (Peace Be upon you) and the hand-touch salam when they meet, and greeting each other with the phrase “Eid Mubarak” or “Selamat Hari Raya”.

It would also be good for non-Muslims to visit their Muslim friends to enhance greater mutual understanding and mutual respect for each other, and to uphold our ideals of unity in diversity.

Food and drinks (no alcoholic beverages) will be served to guests, and children and the elderly get monetary gifts in attractive packets, after all, Eid ul-Fitr means festival of charity.  Anyone is welcome to the home to celebrate Hari Raya.

I take this opportunity to wish all readers of this article Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid). Selamat Hari Raya (Have a Grand Day).

Shaik Kadir
28 May 2019

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