During Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, Muslims have to abstain from food, liquids and sexual behaviours while fasting.
We take a look at how Ramadan, or Ramzan as it is referred to in South Asia, is celebrated in across the world, and how these scenes can also be found in Singapore.
1. They all read the Quran in Arabic.
A Bangladeshi Muslim reads the holy Quran at a mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Source: Aleqt.com)
An Egyptian recites verses of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, as another prays with his prayer beads during Ramadan at Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 11, 2014. (Source: AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Children recite the Quran at a madrasah (an Islamic school), in Nairobi, Kenya. (Source: IslamBosna.ba)
Local Singaporean footballer Baihakki Khaizan teaching his son to read. (Source:SimplyIslam)
2. They pray the same way.
There is probably no time when Muslims pray as much as during the blessed month of Ramadan. On top of the usual five times a day, Muslims have the option perform special Ramadan prayers called Tarawih.
Every night, mosques are filled with devout and able worshipers who spend a portion of their usual sleeping hours to turn to God, attempting to reap all the blessings they can from the holy month.
Pakistani Muslims perform a special “Taraweeh” evening prayer on the first day of the Muslim fasting month at the grand Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. (Source: Aamir Qureshi/AFP Photo)
Muslims in India perform wudhu, a pre-ritual washing for spiritual purification. With every limb that is washed, there is spiritual purification and rejuvenation, with water acting as a symbolic purifying agent for wrongdoings. (Source:AP Photo/ Bernat Armangue)
The muslim community in Brazil may be small but it is diverse. According to the Brazilian Islamic Federation, there are about 1.5 million Muslims living in Brazil. The greatest part of them are Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian and Palestinian descendents. Spot the Rastafarian hat! (Source: OnIslam.net)
An Imam, congregrational prayer leader, leads the Tarawih prayers at the Great Mosque of Almaty, Kazakhstan. (Source: Singgahkemasjid)
Ramadan Friday prayers are the same as Friday prayers in other months in Singapore too. Photo taken at Masjid Sultan by Muhammad Shafiq.
In between prayers, you may find some Muslims sleeping while waiting for the Azan (call to prayer). Photo taken at Al-Abrar mosque in Singapore by Luqman Aris.
3. They celebrate and welcome Ramadan in their own special ways…
Children collect chips and sweets in palm baskets during a mid-Ramadan celebration in Malkiya, Bahrain. (Source: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Lebanese adults and children march through downtown Beirut, Lebanon in preparation for Ramadan. (Source: AP Photo/ Bilal Hussein)
In local Yemeni tradition, Kohl is applied to a man’s eyes during Ramadan. It is a sunnah, prophetic tradition, for Muslims both male and female to use kohl. Photo taken at the Great Mosque in Sanaa, Yemen. (Source: Fahmidaspearls, Photo Source: AFP/ Getty Images/ Mohammed Huwais)
The Moroccan Nefar is a long trumpet that is used to announce the beginning and end of Ramadan. However, this tradition is dying and the Nefar man may become just be a distant childhood memory.
Here’s a video of the Nefar in action:
The nefar makes an appearance in Nigeria too! To celebrate victory over fasting for a month, Muslims in northern Nigeria celebrate Eid al-Fitr, with costumed horsemen paying tribute to the Emir (king) of Katsina to mark the end of Ramadan. Source: Lucy In Nigeria
A Musaharati, dawn awakener, strikes his drum to wake observant Muslims for their overnight Suhoor, last meal, before the day’s fast in Sidon’s Old City in southern Lebanon just before dawn Wednesday. (Source: Reuters/Ali Hashisho)
Boom! With a mighty blast, the Sharjah Police fires the cannon, indicating Maghrib, the end of Ramadan fasting, and time to eat. For Emiratis the cannon is part of the Ramadan tradition. Some scholars have the opinion that the tradition of using artillery to announce sunset has its roots in the sands of Egypt when it was governed by the Ottoman Khosh Qadam, more than two centuries ago. Qadam had been given a cannon as a gift, which he was testing during Iftar of the first day of Ramadan. When it was fired it, the whole of Cairo reverberated with the sound of the cannon. The inhabitants of Cairo were impressed and thought that this was a new method of announcing sunset, so much so that the next day the Qadam was visited by people who congratulated him on such a clever way for everyone in the city to be informed of the breaking of the fast. (Photos Source: Khaleej TImes)
4. In many places across the globe, Muslims putting up light decorations.
A street vendor plugs in light decorations in Amman, Jordan. (Source: The Economist)
A Palestinian man decorates his shop near the entrance of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, in the old city of Jerusalem, in preparation for Ramadan. (Source: AFP/Getty Images/ Ahmad Gharabli)
Fanous lights are a special scene to the Arabic world. (Source: Imran Hussaini)
An Egyptian worker makes a traditional Ramadan lantern marking the holy month of Ramadan at a market in the neighborhood of Sayeda Zeinab, Cairo, Egypt. A lot of the traditional fanous, or glass lanterns, are handmade. (Source: Islamicboard)
The ‘Fanous’ of Ramadan is one of the most captivating of the Ramadan traditions. Some scholars believe the use of lanterns during festivals date back to pre-Islamic Egypt. The more popular stories however, tell of Egyptians welcoming the arrival of Caliph Moezz Eddin Allah to Cairo in the year 969 by lighting hundreds of lanterns. According to some tales, the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim bi Amr Al-Lāh wanted the streets of Cairo illuminated during the nights of Ramadan. He ordered all the mosques to hang fawanees (lanterns) that could be lit by candles. Another account tells of the Fatimid Caliph’s going out into to the streets to sight the crescent moon of Ramadan, accompanied by children holding fawanees and sing Ramadan songs. In other folklore, Caliph al-Hakim (996-1021) also of the Fatimid dynasty was said to have ordered that women were only permitted to leave their home at night if they were accompanied by a boy carrying a lantern, and also that every neighbourhood should have a lantern hung at its entrance. Not surprisingly, the lantern industry went through a boom.
Today, it is children who are usually associated with going out into the streets with their beautiful and brightly coloured lanterns. There is, however, a worry that traditional lantern making is being lost to imports and that Egyptian artisanship which is showcased during Ramadan in particular will be lost.
Children are commonly seen playing with them while singing a popular rhyme called Wahawi ya Wahawi.
While in Singapore, many restaurants serve up special Ramadan dishes.
4. They put up light decorations across the world
Lights will guide you home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Source: @assoore on instagram)
A Palestinian man decorates his shop near the entrance of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, in the old city of Jerusalem. (Source: AFP/Getty Images/ Ahmad Gharabli)
A street vendor plugs in light decorations in Amman, Jordan. (Source:The Economist)
Turkish people break their fast at the Blue Mosque square during the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in Istanbul. See the words made out of suspended lights strung across the minarets of the mosque?
The Turkish tradition of Mahya or “Writing in the sky” is unique to Istanbul. The origin of this isn’t clear, but some historical sources attribute the first Mahya to the calligrapher Hâfız Ahmed Kefevî, who was also the müezzin (the person who chants the call to prayer) of the Fatih Mosque.
These used to be done using oil lamps in arabic script, but modernity and technological advances have influenced a change to electric bulbs, the use of latin alphabets, and now, LED cables. (Photo Source: Alarabiya.net)
Traditional glass lanterns usually seen in abundance when Ramadan draws near. Fanous hanging in a market in Egypt. Source: Imran Hussaini
An Egyptian worker makes a traditional Ramadan lantern in Sayeda Zeinab, Cairo, Egypt.
The ‘Fanous’ of Ramadan is one of the most captivating of the Ramadan traditions. It is said that Egyptians welcomed the arrival of Caliph Moezz Eddin Allah to Cairo in 969 by lighting hundreds of lanterns.
Today it’s children who are out in the streets with their beautiful lanterns.
Geylang Serai in Singaporebthe whole street will be lit in festive colours. (Source: Today Online)
5. Ramadan is a time to be generous and charitable.
In Burkino Faso, food is given to people who are living in difficult circumstances. (Source: IHH Humanitarian Foundation)
Food is given to the elderly in Crimea, Kyrgyzstan. (Source: IHH Humanitarian Foundation)
Mogadishu, Somalia has a similar practice of giving out porridge to the community. (Source: The Economist)
Long lines are seen at Masjid Sultan, queuing up for bubur masjid, or mosque porridge. Every Ramadan, almost all mosques will have their version of bubur masjid. (Source: Imran)
In Singapore, an annual hamper distribution takes place in a housing estate in Chai Chee. (Source: #FoodForRamadan Facebook)
6. Bazaars selling food you can only get during Ramadan.
This photo shows Afghan residents waiting to buy yogurt to break their fast at a roadside stall in Kabul during the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. (Islamboard)
A Yemeni vendor displays a variety of dates. Three dates are traditionally eaten to break the fast, as recommended by the Prophet Muhammad. Dates are also a good source of nutrients for the fasting person. (Source: AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Libyan men buy dates from a vendor in downtown Tripoli. Dates are also given as gifts to families and friends. (Source: AFP/Getty Images/Mahmud Turkia)
Sweet treats are the go-to choices for those who fast. A Palestinian vendor sells a bag of fried dough ball sweets locally called “awwamaat” at a shop on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, June 29, 2014. (Source: Islamicboard)
A Moroccan fries pastries at a market in Casablanca, on the first day of Ramadan. (Source: AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Geylang Bazaar in Singapore (Source: Johorkaki)
7. At dusk, it is time to break fast, or iftar.
Indigenous Tzotzil women prepare for Iftar at Al Kauthar mosque in San Critobal de Las Casa, Mexico. Islam is relatively new in Mexico, having brought in by Spaniards in 1994. (Source: Xinhuanet)
A goat being slaughtered for iftar. Not all Muslims in Kyrgyzstan fast during the day, preferring to cook for those who are in order to receive the good aura from those who fast. (Source: Uncornered Market)
In Pakistan, a man arranges rows of food to prepare for Iftar. It is a common sight all over the world to see Muslims breaking fast together in mosques. (Source: AFP Photo/ Asif Hassan)
Workers break their fast at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Source: The Economist)
Muslims in Dirah Mosque in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia wait for the Maghrib aadzan before breaking their fast collectively. (Source: Time.com)
Afghans say their prayers before breaking their fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, June 29, 2014. (Source: Islamboard)
A family sits at the Jama Masjid in Delhi. (Source: Indian Express)
During these mass iftars, the women and the men sit separately. In Singapore, groups of four to five people gather around to share food on a platter, or dulang. (Source: Mendaki’s Facebook)
Mosques open up to allow anyone to come and enjoy the feast. Non-Muslims are welcomed too, but do dress appropriately and enquire beforehand. Photo at Masjid Sultan in Singapore (Source: Travelfish.org)
8. Who can forget the shopping for Eid ul Fitr or Hari Raya in the following month of Syawal?
Muslims believe that on Eid, one should wear their best clothes. Ahead of Ramadan, a Palestian vendor displays headscarves on mannequins for sale at a shop in West Bank city of Nablus. (Source: AP Photo/ Nasser Ishtayeh)
Bazaars in Geylang Serai, Kampong Glam’s Bussorah Street and void decks in housing estates. (Photo source: Mydailymoo.wordpress)
The scenes found across the world during Ramadan are similar despite the vast geographical distances that separate these civilisations. It is no wonder that some Muslims find themselves at home at any Muslim community in the world.
GoBeyond.SG would like to wish all Muslim readers Eid Mubarak!