Ramadan is a special month in the year for more than a billion Muslims worldwide, the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar. During this holy month Muslims are required to put their faith and their commitment to their religion to the test. The month is an opportunity for everyone to spend more time in inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control.
From sunrise to sunset every day, for either 29 or 30 days, Muslims abstain completely from eating, drinking, smoking and having intercourse. They also avoid speaking ill of anyone, swearing, and even getting angry or watching anything immoral. Although the focus of Ramadan is spiritual, many cultures place a surprising emphasis on their special foods, and with this emphasis on togetherness, you can expect a lot more socializing to take place during this holy month.
Two or three weeks before the holy month, Moroccan families prepare the best food they can afford to be presented during this month. Large batches of sweets such as sellou (Zmita) and chebekia are traditionally prepared in advance for use throughout the holy month. Sellou is a very nutritious dish prepared with roasted flour mixed with melted butter, honey, sesame seeds, almonds and more, while Chebbakia is a sweetened flower-shaped cookie.
Though these dishes demand considerable sums of money to be prepared, every Moroccan family, even the less fortunate ones, will find ways to prepare them or buy some in the nearby grocery stores. Decorating “Lftour” tables with all the kinds of food is a social obligation even though Islam calls for Muslims to reasonably spend money on food.
Moroccans spend more time socializing during Ramadan. An unprecedented activity and festive atmosphere are witnessed by the nights of this holy month. Families exchange visits and “Chehiwat” (the typical foods prepared by the family) every night after the prayers of “Tarawih” (voluntary prayers performed after “Al Ishae” prayer). Children are rejoiced by the coming of Ramadan, because they have the chance to get out of their homes with their families and play with other kids till a late time at night. Media outlets respond with special programming like sitcoms, sketches, series and theatrical plays to meet the needs of an enlarged audience.
The sense of solidarity, especially with those less fortunate, increases during Ramadan. People tend to give more alms to the poor in the form of food, clothes or money. In big cities, associations and sometimes the government provide free “Iftaars” for anyone who wants to partake in the meal. Associations, sport clubs and culture complexes organize religious, sport, social and cultural entertaining activities during the whole month.
The last 10 days of Ramadan are considered as highly blessed because they include Laylat al-Qadr – “a night better than a thousand months”. Although there is no specific time indicating the day of Laylat al-Qadr, “the night of destiny”, it is to be found in the last five odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan, conventionally the 27th night.
The Night of Destiny is the time when the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him). For many devout Muslims, this period is marked by a particular spiritual intensity. Moroccans spend these nights, in addition to performing voluntary prayers and reciting the Quran, with their families celebrating the night together. Men go to mosques in elegant traditional clothes, and women burn incense in all the parts of the house.
While in the summer months, Ramadan is greeted with greater trepidation than usual. There is more than enough joy once the days of fasting begin. Ramadan provides a great opportunity to come closer to God and to know ourselves and the important things in life more intimately.
By Larbi Arbaoui
Morocco World News