Hyderabad: It is a spring of good deeds, a month of fasting, devotion, compassion, generosity, forgiveness and repentance. And India's 140 million Muslims, who constitute the world's third-largest Muslim population, observe Ramadan with both devotion and fervour.
Ramadan, the ninth month of Islamic calendar that began Thursday is the holy month during which Muslims observe 'roza' (fast), one of the five tenets of Islam.
The fasting is obligatory for all adult Muslims except those who are ill and travelling. During the fast, observed every day from dawn to sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming any food or water or engaging in sexual relations.
Muslims try to move closer to the Almighty Allah, seeking His forgiveness and mercy by daily offering 'namaz' five-times and also additional 'namaz' during night like 'Taraweeh' and 'Tahajjud' and reading of the holy Quran.
"By fasting, we thank Allah for giving us the Quran, which was revealed during this holy month. This is a complete guidance not just for Muslims but for the entire humanity," Sultan Mohiuddin, head of Jamaat-e-Islami's Nampally unit in Hyderabad, told IANS.
Fasting teaches man self-control and patience. "By abstaining from things which are allowed in other days, we practice how to control ourselves in other days when there is something which we like but is harmful to the society and which our Creator has prohibited," Mohiuddin added.
The man's patience is put to test when he fasts. When a man doesn't eat, it develops a sense of anger within and he is more likely to fight with others but 'roza' teaches a method to control oneself. While controlling hunger and thirst, he also has to ensure that he doesn't abuse, harm or fight with others.
One of the significant features of Ramadan is that it creates empathy towards have-nots and encourages charity. "When a man fasts, he realizes there are many people who don't get two square meals and deprived of basic necessities. When I have money I eat and drink but there are many who go hungry because they don't have the means. Quran says the poor, handicapped and those who are deprived also have their share in your money," said a scholar, who declined to be named.
But then, Ramadan is not only about fasting and prayers. Parts of cities like Delhi or Hyderabad or Kolkata or Mumbai, with a large Muslim population, come alive, especially during evenings. The markets teem with people buying dates, fruits and the fried items for 'iftar' or breaking of fast. The occasion brings together the devouts in mosques and at community 'iftars' as the holy month provides unique opportunity to foster unity and brotherhood.
Shopping continues till late in the night with the people tasting 'haleem', a special delicacy of Ramadan prepared by hundreds of hotels and roadside eateries. The worshippers throng the mosques for prayers till around midnight. The activity resumes in the wee hours of the day with people waking up for 'sahr' or pre-dawn meals followed by the morning prayers.
In the national capital, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other top political leaders also host 'iftar' parties.
There are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. India has the world's third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan, with 20 to 30 percent Muslim populations in some of the largest states of the country.