It is the season of Ramadan, a time when Muslims all over the world go on a month-long fasting. Not only is it a time to fast, but it is also a time for great self-discipline and deprivation.
It is a duty of every Muslim to abstain from all physical pleasures from dawn to dusk. They must abstain from food, drink, sex and any other kinds of leisurely activities, in fact, nothing must pass their lips, be it smoking or chewing gum, but devote most of their time to Allah (God).
At sunrise, as soon as there is enough daylight to distinguish between a black thread from a white one, the fasting begins.
Sheikh Abdullah Kanamugire of Nyamirambo main Mosque says that the spiritual purpose of Ramadhan is to develop self control and keep greed at bay. Nyamirambo is one of Kigali’s popular suburbs and home to the majority of Muslims in the city.
“No-one is meant to suffer ill health as a result of the fast and certain groups are excused. These include children under 12, pregnant women, breast feeding mothers, the old or sick people” he adds.
He continued that since there are so many Muslims fasting around the world, it also creates a sense of solidarity in the Muslim community who open their hearts and wallets to the less fortunate.
He emphasises that Ramadhan is an especially spiritual month and Muslims attend prayers at the mosque more frequently, especially during the third week of Ramadhan.
“This is when they focus on Muhammad’s revelation, and read the Quran more often. Some Muslims even recite the whole of the Quran during the month” says Kanamugire.
Kanamugire explains that according to the holy book, Ramadhan is the month during which the Quran was revealed. It is a time when Muslims who have gone astray are wooed back to the fold and religious leaders come closer to the believers.
“Ramadhan is a special time for Muslims throughout the world. It is a time when one calls for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control” says Muhammad Mazimpaka, the president of the Muslim community in Kimisagara.
“Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or over-indulgence, especially to those who have lost the Islamic discipline” says Mazimphaka.
He adds that it’s during this month that they show a film called “The night of power”. This is during the most important period of the season, the last ten days of Ramadhan.
Mazimpaka says that the movie shows the revelation of the book to the Prophet and how it was completed. Also Muslims keep awake all night praying or listening to teachings until the end of the fasting period.
How Ramadhan is celebrated
The Muslims are called upon to observe a fast for 29 or 30 days (depending on the sighting of the moon) and end it after seeing the new moon.
Kanamugire says that the fasting term is known as Roza adding that Muslims repent and pray in respect to Roza during the month.
Muslims have a culture of breaking the fast at the end of the day by eating a big meal with snacks referred to as iftaar where everybody shares the meal with family members, relatives and friends.
Schools too respect Ramadhan celebrations
Salim Mugabo is one of the Muslim teachers at Ecole de Nyakabanda in Kigali. He says that the school administration respects the Islamic culture during Ramadhan. It sets aside one hour each day for Muslim students to undergo Islamic teachings.
“Muslim teachers at school prepare praying and teaching sessions for the pupils so as to increase the spiritual awareness of the young Muslims” he says.
However it’s during Ramadhan like any other fasting periods that daily prayers are held at all mosques in the country. It’s a period when a message of friendship, repentance, peace and brotherhood is taught in all mosques.