Though Sikhism is a distinct religion separate from Hinduism and Islam, we are sharing this story in the spirit of communal harmony
Kuldeep Singh Saini, a mechatronics engineer developed the app Ramadan 2016 which helps keep a track of the direction of prayer, iftar (meal after sunset), sehri (pre-dawn meal), prayer timings, and has been downloaded more than 500,000 times.
Kuldeep, 27, was always intrigued by how the workers at his father’s garage diligently observed the various religious customs during the Holy Month of Ramadan, and had always wanted to make it easier for them to do the same. Armed with basic coding knowledge and a fair experience in app development, he started working on a Ramadan App in 2015. He started by researching religious practices by talking to the workers in his father’s garage. It took him two months to finish work on the UI and UX, while the actual coding took him another two months.
VARANASI: This Eid will bring extra sweetness with love and compassion for Razia, Najma, Khushboo and many others, as the sewain they will prepare to celebrate the festival has come from their Hindu sisters and brothers.
About 300 poor Muslim families of the locality were given food items for Eid celebration. The Anaj Bank, run by women’s NGO Vishal Bharat Sansthan, collected food grains and other edibles from its account holders for free distribution among poor families.
DUBAI: Representatives of Al Manar Islamic Centre ended their fast on Monday evening at the Jebel Ali-based Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara during an iftar organised by the temple committee that represents 250,000 members of the Sikh community. The iftar followed a religious discourse where scholars exchanged ideas.
Both Sikh priests and Islamic scholars exchanged ideas on the oneness of humanity and existence of one God before a gathering of more than 100 people.
Surinder Singh Kandhari, chairman of the Gurudwara, told Gulf News: “We consider the month of Ramadan an excellent time to observe interfaith harmony and bond with the community. Our religion has taught us the importance of the oneness of all human beings and the important role that the community kitchen at the gurudwara plays in bringing people together to share a meal. Every day we hold a langar (free meal for the community) for 1,000 people at the Sikh temple and on Fridays for 10,000 people. This iftar, which has become an annual feature since last year, is an excellent opportunity for us to forget our egos and come together and share a meal with our Muslim brothers.”
BELLA VISTA: When Kartik Mohandas breaks his Ramadan fast he meditates while his Muslim friends recite Islamic prayers. “Fasting exists in most messianic religions. Navratri is a period where Hindus fast for nine days and hold festivities on the 10th day. So fasting is not specific to any culture.”
“I have only one phrase and it comes from a vedic [Sanskrit] text, vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means “the world is my family. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, they all had their revelations out in the desert after fasting. There’s got to be something to it, some experience that they went through.”
HOUSTON: The sought-after Chef Kiran Verma of Houston is hosting an event to show how to put a modern-Indian twist on traditional Ramadan recipes. For the last few years, Verma has hosted and catered iftars at her restaurant and throughout Houston. She said that Muslims come to her restaurant to find high-quality halal foods which uphold the precise rules of Islamic consumption. While she does not serve halal meat and foods all the time, she makes a special effort for Muslims during Ramadan. Despite the sandstone sculpture of Krishna at the entrance to Kiran’s restaurant, Muslims from Bangladesh come each year to pray in one room and dine in another at Verma’s restaurant on Westheimer.
Verma hopes people not only enjoy the food she prepares, but the atmosphere and attitude she composes. “Shared meals bring people close because we are happily satisfied together; you don’t think negative thoughts, it takes you to a positive place,” she said.
While people may be surprised that an Indian Hindu is cooking for a Muslim holiday, Verma said, “I just always feel that when I cook for different cultures or sects that it makes them feel like we are one.”
LUCKNOW: For the past 65 years, fingers that turn tulsi mala to complete the 108 gayatri mantra chants also count the beads of tasbeeh during the month of Ramzan. These blessed hands belong to Khairatan Devi, a Hindu in Chawalwali Gali of Nakkhas Bazaar who fasts during Ramzan along with thousands of Muslims in the city. She reminds one of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah who said if his left eye represented a Muslim, the right a Hindu, thus sowing the seeds of Lucknow’s fabled Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb.
Heritage researcher Sayed Rizwan said the roots of Hindu-Muslim solidarity in Avadh run deep. “When Abe-zam-zam (water from the masjid in Mecca) was no available, Muslims broke their fast with Gangajal (water from the Ganges River).”
ABU DHABI: A Hindu family in Abu Dhabi has been fasting this Ramadan. And not for the first time. They have been doing it for 14 years. “We cannot imagine a Ramadan without fasting. It is like an inner call,” said Indian expat Vakkam Jayalal, 54, who along with his wife Yamuna, 43, and two grown-up children observe fast throughout Ramadan.
The Jayalal family are not alone. There are many non-Muslims in the UAE who take on the month-long exercise in spiritual cleansing and devotion every year. While some are inspired by the concept, others observe the Ramadan fast to express solidarity with their Muslim brethren. Rajendran Parameshwaran, 48, another Indian expatriate in Abu Dhabi, says it is the 14th year he is fasting during Ramadan. Many other non-Muslims inspired by their friends’ commitment and devotion also observe the fast for a day or days to show respect for the religion.
JAIPUR: The festivals of Teej and the first of the Ramzan coincided with each other after a gap of thirty years and saw people from the Hindu and Muslim communities celebrating the festivals with much love and peace in Jaipur. In Jaipur the festivals of Teej and the first day of Ramzan coincided after three decades. At many places Muslims showered rose and petals on Teej procession when it passed through Muslim-majority areas. Reciprocating in the same spirit, many Hindus chose to enjoy the special sweet dishes ‘kheer’, ‘halwa-parantha’ and ‘malai’ with bread during Iftaar.
Jainism, like Buddhism and Sikhism, is a separate religion from Hinduism, but this article is being shared in the spirit of interfaith harmony.
BIHAR: Muslims in Bihar’s Bhagalpur town not only helped build a Jain temple but one of them went to the extent of demolishing part of his own house to pave the way for the construction of the shrine.
“In the month of Ramadan, when a Muslim is supposed to do rightful things, I decided to help my Jain brothers,” said Akhtar. Early this year, some Muslims had helped in building a Hindu temple dedicated to goddess Durga in Bihar’s Gaya district. Muslims not only donated money but were also involved in the construction of the temple.Earlier, a Muslim had donated his land for a temple dedicated to god Shiva in Begusarai district. Mohammad Fakhrool Islam had given land for it in Muslim-dominated Bachwara village. Over three decades ago, in the same village some Hindus had donated a piece of land for the construction of a mazar (a place where a saint is buried).
(It was) the month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe Sawm (fasts) that month…
~ al-Baqarah 2:185
Welcoming a blessed Ramadan, a month of prayer, self-reflection, and self-purification. This is a Muslim’s contribution to understanding the injustices of the world through a small act of solidarity, in fasting. It is a time for reflection on how problems within society can be harmful and how to be the change you want within the world. Ramadan allows one to rejuvenate and replenish, while praising God all along the way. Let us pray that we learn and grow exponentially throughout this month, inshallah.
A Muslim woman’s devotional songs have cast a bewitching spell on Hindus, making her the most sought after artist in puja pandals across the Mahakoshal region. Shahnaz Akhtar herself is observing Ramzan fast. Invitations are pouring in from all parts of the region. She has already performed at Mandla, Betul, Gondia, Narsinghpur and Jabalpur.
A native of Seoni, Shahnaz says her being Muslim did not ever pose a problem in singing at Devi Puja pandals. “Neither Hindus nor Muslims have objected to my shows. In fact, my well-wishers and parents always encouraged me to sing Devi songs.”
Fasting is Mine and it I who give reward for it. A man gives up his sexual passion, his food and his drink for my sake. Fasting is like a shield, and he who fasts has two joys: a joy when he breaks his fast and a joy when he meets his Lord. The change in the breath of the mouth of him who fasts is better in Allah’s estimation than the smell of musk.
– Hadith Qudsi
For Muslims, fasting is not simply an exercise in bodily cleansing or asceticism. The focus cannot be on the individual’s physical body and health alone. Since Islam is centered on the principle of Tawhid, or Spiritual Unity, the body must of course be taken into account, and yet to focus on it alone is to obscure the profound depth of spiritual meanings within the fast. Unlike a materialistically centered fast, the ultimate goal for a Muslim is to use the experience, not only to benefit oneself, but also to cultivate compassion and love on a global scale.
The Arabic term for fasting, Sawm, is one of the five pillars of the faith, meaning that it is one of the practices that unites Muslims regardless of ideological and geographical differences. The term literally means “to abstain”, what on the most basic level means obtaining from sunrise to sunset from food, drink and sex. From there, one also should control anger and stop all backbiting, lying, cheating, stealing, jealousy, greed and other negative qualities. As one refines their fast, eventually the ego is subsumed and the mind finds tranquility in a state of Taqwa, or God-Consciousness.
Fasting is ordained for healthy individuals old enough and mentally sound enough to practice safely. It is done in the month of Ramadan, when the first verses of the Qur’an descended to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through the Angel Gabriel. It is also practiced before Ramadan in the months of Rajab and Shaban, the month of Shawwal following Ramadan, the Day of Arafat, Ashura, in the middle of the lunar month and each Monday and Thursday. To avoid extreme asceticism, it is not permitted to fast every day of the year. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “There is no reward for fasting for the one who perpetually fasts.”
I pass the night with my Lord: He giveth me food and drink. Hunger is God’s food whereby He revives the bodies of the siddiqs, in hunger God’s food reaches [them].
– The Prophet (pbuh)
To fast truly is to experience nourishment of the spirit, transcending the momentary pains of the body. Since the body exists in time, being born, deteriorating and dying, to live for bodily pleasure alone cannot truly satisfy. The Prophet (pbuh) suggests that intimacy with God provides a type of food that paradoxically feeds one who obtains from external food and drink. Fasting only makes sense from a spiritual perspective since growing the spirit is the goal, even as the body might suffer.
Fasting leads to non-existence, for, after all, all joys are there.
God is with those who patiently persevere [2:249].
– Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi
With patience and perseverance, the initial annoyance, pain and discomfort of fast gives way to a profound inner peace. This tranquility of heart is found only after self-centeredness diminishes. When the endless desires and worldly preoccupations are gone, God is most manifest. The human becomes transparent and the light of God is able to shine through.
The real fast is the blossoming of the inner heart.
– Bawa Muhaiyaddeen
To reiterate, the end goal of fasting for a Muslim must not be simply going hungry or playing up one’s piety for others. Like other religious communities, Muslims fast in community, not for their own reasons, spiritual or otherwise, but for the healing of the world. Since God made us from a single soul, our spiritual path must also be pursued with that singularity in mind. The heart of the world is in the heart of the human, and the heart of the human is in the heart of the world. We fast so that both hearts can be purified and transformed.
controlling the mind with determination, giving up the objects of sense gratification…who eats little and controls the body and the tongue…such a person is certainly elevated to the position of Self-realization.
– Bhagavad Gita 18:52-54
One draws the energy from the vital plane instead of depending upon physical substance.
– Sri Aurobindo, answering a disciple’s question “How is it possible to have such energy without food?”
Before going into the Hindu perspective on fasting here are two things one should keep in mind:
Avoid overeating after a fast: After breaking a fast not only are large food portions an unhealthy shock to the digestive tract, gorging makes one forget about empathizing with the poor. The less fortunate don’t have the luxury of going to a buffet after being hungry all day. In addition, one of the objectives of fasting is to control sense gratification. Overindulgence on food defeats this goal. Instead, try to avoid feasts or buffets and instead opt for a light or regular-sized meal instead.
Avoid fasting for ego: One shouldn’t brag or feel proud about fasting. If a person can fast with ease they should keep it to themselves. Remember – the goal is to serve a higher purpose not impress others.
In Hinduism, fasting is encouraged and prescribed as a means of worship. Sanskrit words for fasting include upavasa (moving up/near God) and vrat (self discipline or vow). Since the body and mind are constantly seeking stimulation fasting gives the senses a break and a chance for the soul to reconnect with the Creator. Disciplining the physical senses leads to spiritual advancement. Practicing the spiritual path on a bloated stomach or with constant attention to food can be a hindrance to progress. On the other hand, fasting done correctly and regularly removes mental, physical, and spiritual impurities.
Hindus are encouraged to fast habitually by picking one day of the week and abstaining on that day throughout the year. Other sects pick 2-3 days out of a month based on the lunar calendar and perform upavasa then. Most people fast on major holidays and festivals.
A general vrat in Hinduism lasts 24 hours, usually from sunrise to sunrise. There are a few holidays that are shorter (sunrise to sunset), and there are some that are much longer. For instance Navratri, which starts 8 October this year, is a festival that lasts for nine days. More dedicated devotees may carry out a 30 day fast for certain auspicious months. Of course, the most ardent, disciplined, and highly advanced seekers have trained themselves to go without food or water for much, much longer periods. Some are so blissful from God-consciousness that they have to be reminded to eat.
In the dharmic traditions there are various degrees to fasting. A practitioner is advised to perform based on what they’re able to handle. Some eat only fruits, nuts, and dairy. Others eat only one meal a day. The more experienced abstain from food and water. Regardless of which method a person chooses, what counts is the sincerity in the devotion and the effort to bring the senses under control.