THE NEAR EAST
1st Ramadan (Fasting Begins) July 20, 2012
Lailatul-Qadr (Night of Power) August 14, 2012
[This section was based on
the Ramadhan links for my 2001-2002
Winter Greetings & Lore page. Many have been updated for 31 July 2011.]
[Photo from Ramadhan Moon]
[13 November 2001]:
Except for Sufism (to which I've long felt an attraction), Islam has never played much of a role in my life, yet it has long haunted the fringes of my consciousness. When I visited Israel in the 1960's and 1970's, I always stayed with the Sisters of Zion in the Old City of Jerusalem, where I awakened each dawn to the call to prayer from a nearby minaret. I loved that call to prayer, the markets of the Old Quarter, the Arab men, the mint tea they offered me, the rich laughter we shared as I tried my minimal Arabic on them. But I knew little of their faith.
Today, with the pressure of world events, I have been looking more closely at Islam. Like many people, I thought of Ramadan as a kind of Moslem "Lent" when everyone fasts. Recently, however, in reading portions of Islamic scholar Michael Sells' Approaching the Qur'an: the Early Revelations, I discovered how profoundly rich this period is.
It prepares the way for the "Night of Destiny" in which the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. What I found especially engrossing is that the fluid Arabic used to speak of the Night into which Spirit breathes its seeds of Qur'anic revelations is redolent with the same sounds and imagery found in Qur'anic passages in which Spirit breathes the seed of Jesus into the womb of Maryam (Mary). Sells writes:Gender is a vital aspect of Qur'anic sound figures and the Qur'anic passages on spirit. Like all sacred texts of the classical period of religious revelations, the Qur'an was revealed in a society in which the public voice of leadership was largely male; thus, the social context of the revelation, as in the Bible or the Vedas, was largely a male domain. Yet the gender dynamic within the Qur'an contains an extraordinary balance that is constructed and modulated through sound figures. These patterns create partial personifications -- of a woman giving birth, conceiving, suffering, experiencing peace, or grieving at the loss of her only child.... These sound visions occur at theologically critical moments in the Qur'an and are vital to its suppleness and beauty in the original Arabic. It may be no coincidence that spirit (ruh) is one of the few words in Arabic that can be both masculine and feminine.... The loss of such sound visions in translation is particularly damaging because of the way Islam has been perceived in stereotypes about gender and the role of women in society [Sells:186].In discussing "the intricate and beautiful gender dynamic that is a fundamental part of Qur'anic language" [Sells:202], Sells writes of the feminine pronoun, ha, a sound that "anchors the Sura," in these terms:...it creates a sense of a feminine-gendered presence within a set of sliding or shifting referents (the sun, the sky and the earth and/or the sun, and then the soul). The objects evoked are marks of wonder and signs of their underlying source [Sells:195].Finally, about the Night of Destiny itself, Sells writes:...The implicit metaphor in the Sura of Destiny is night, personified as a woman, conceiving the prophetic message through the spirit. This conception by the night of destiny is almost identical, in the language used to depict it, to the conception by Maryam of Jesus through the spirit. The personification of the night is never direct or blatant, but is heard and constructed through sound figures and undertones that make the Sura of Destiny one of the world's most beloved passages on prophecy [Sells:192-3].I hope this brief introduction will give you some sense of the "spirit" within Islam. (Note: I highly recommend Sells' book for its surprising insights and stark beauty -- it comes with a fabulous CD of Qur'anic reciters chanting some of the early suras).
Ramadan's actual dates depend upon the first sight of the new moon's rising, as the Moslem calendar is both lunar and experiential -- in other words, the new moon actually has to be seen: if the night is cloudy, Ramadan might start the following night, or the next, or whenever the sky clears. This handsomely designed website comes from ArabView Network. It includes information on Ramadan, many tasty recipes, and links to related sites. About Ramadan itself:
http://www.holidays.net/ramadan/The holy month of Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar where all Muslims "Fast" or refrain from eating from dusk till dawn. It is also believed that during this holy month, the Quran was revealed (believed to be on the 27th day of Ramadan - "Laylat al Qadr" or "Night of Power") to the Prophet Mohammad....
Ramadhan New Moon
The Islam Awareness Blog
This brief site offers a handful of links with basic information on Ramadan and Islam. This link goes directly to the Islamic Calendar, currently from 2011-2015: http://www.holidays.net/ramadan/dates.htmhttp://www.crescentwatch.org/cgi-bin/cw.cgi
[Added 31 July 2011]: This is Crescentwatch, a very useful site that watches for all crescent moons throughout the year and posts sightings online:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RamadanCrescentwatch.org adheres to the traditional principle that Islamic lunar months begin and end based on the confirmed, verifiable sighting of the new crescent moon.About Ramadhan 2011:Crescentwatch.org encourages everyone to go out to look for the new crescent moon (hilal) on the night of Sunday, July 31st in anticipation of the beginning of the Islamic month of Ramadan. (If the moon is sighted on July 31st, the first day of Ramadan and its fast would occur on Aug. 1st.). Qualified Muslim astronomers and reliable visibility forecasts indicate that several regions around the world will have a decent likelihood of sighting the moon that evening (check the visibility forecast for your region here).
Please go out to look for the new crescent moon and submit your moonsighting report here. The crescent (hilal) would be visible shortly after sunset, slightly to the left, and above where the sun had set. It is a beautiful experience to sight its emergence, and it is a sunnah of our noble Prophet, sal Allahu alayhi wa salam, that we hope the ummah revives.
Ramadhan Lanterns, an Egyptian Tradition
[Added 31 July 2011]: This is Wikipedia's page on Ramadhan -- it's well done and has 6 lovely photos accompanying it (see above and below for 2 of them).http://web.archive.org/web/20090307061344/http://www.ummah.net/ramadhan/ram_what.htm: [7/31/11: Updated to Web Archive]
"Ramadan -- What Is It?" comes from a December 1996 essay by Abdulhamid Mukhtar. Based on tradition as well as etymologies, it's a very interesting piece of writing. For example:http://www.ramadhan.org/: [7/31/11: broken link, even on Web Archive -- but I'm keeping the annotation. 7/22/12: still not on Web Archive.]Ramadan is derived from the Arabic root word ramida or arramad -- intense scorching heat and dryness, especially the ground.... Some said it is so called because the hearts and souls are more readily receptive to the admonition and remembrance of Allah during Ramadan, as the sand and stones are receptive to the sun's heat....
[Annotation updated 11/9/01]:This site offers many links to Ramadhan -- one of the sections I found most interesting is "Ramadhan Issues," where there's a lengthy essay on the question of whose sighting of the new moon begins and ends Ramadan. The author takes issue with political boundaries and "government scholars" in determining Ramadan:http://www.moonsighting.com/index.cgi...The sighting of the moon of Ramadhan or the moon of Shawaal by a Muslim obliges all the Muslims to fast or break fast, with no difference between a country or another or between a Muslim or another because any Muslim who saw the moon is proof for any who did not see it.
The witnessing by a Muslim in any country is not more deserving than the witnessing by a Muslim in any other country. There is no value of the divisions and borders which the kuffar established in the Muslims' lands, which made it so that the Muslims of Dar'a in Syria start fasting while the people of Ramtha in Jordan do not, although there is nothing between the two cities except imaginary borders....
[Added 27 November 2001]: For yet another view of this moonsighting controversy, this is a site filled with data from Khalid Shaukat. He writes on his opening page about the moonsighting for Ramadhan 2001:http://web.archive.org/web/20090201164018/http://islam.about.com/od/ramadan/a/ram_benefits.htm...The Shura Council's decision was based on understanding of individual members of the Council about scientific aspects of moonsighting. Not every member has the same level of understanding science of moonsighting. The astronomy consultants to the Council rejected two other claims of sighting, one from Maryland and the other from Tempe AZ. The Council accepted one claim of sighting the moon from Tucson AZ by one person....
Ramadhan Fasting: Various Grains
From Christine Huda Dodge, the Islam guide at about.com, comes "The Ramadan Spirit," an eloquent page from 1999 contrasting the Moslem month of fasting with the materialism of some of the other seasonal celebrations. Note, 31 July 2011: Lest it vanish, here is most of it:http://web.archive.org/web/20080502120921/http://islam.about.com/od/ramadan/f/ramadan_faq.htmRamadan is a period of fasting, reflection, devotion, generosity and sacrifice observed by Muslims around the world. While major holidays of other faiths have largely become commercialized events, Ramadan retains its intense spiritual meaning.
The word "Ramadan" comes from the Arabic root word for "parched thirst" and "sun-baked ground." It is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who spend the month in fasting. As opposed to other holidays, when people often indulge, Ramadan is by nature a time of sacrifice.
* Through fasting, a Muslim experiences hunger and thirst, and sympathizes with those in the world who have little to eat every day.
* Through increased devotion, Muslims feel closer to their Creator, and recognize that everything we have in this life is a blessing from Him.
* Through increased charity, Muslims develop feelings of generosity and good-will toward others. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said, "A man's wealth is never diminished by charity."
* Through self-control, a Muslim practices good manners, good speech, and good habits.
* Through changing routines, Muslims have a chance to establish more healthy lifestyle habits -- particularly with regards to diet and smoking.
* Through family and community gatherings, Muslims strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, in their own communities and throughout the world.
Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims, but the feelings and lessons we experience should stay with us throughout the year. In the Qur'an, Muslims are commanded to fast so that they may "learn self-restraint" (Qur'an 2:183). This restraint and devotion is especially felt during Ramadan, but we all must strive to make the feelings and attitudes stay with us during our "normal" lives. That is the true goal and test of Ramadan....
Also from Christine Huda Dodge is this unusually lengthy page of well chosen links to many aspects of Ramadan (including links for teachers). This is a great place to browse. [Note, 7/31/11: I'm not sure that Web Archive link has all the links I saw in 1999, but this is the best link still available so I'm posting it so that you can explore topics of interest to you.]http://web.archive.org/web/20080306080950/http://islam.about.com/od/ramadan/a/moonsighting.htm
[Added 31 July 2011]: Finally, here is Christine Huda Dodge's very sensible approach to moon-sighting:...Over the years, various scholars and communities have answered this question in different ways. The prevailing opinion is that one should commit to a local moon-sighting, i.e. begin and end Ramadan based on the sighting of the moon in your local vicinity. Astronomical calculations can help us predict when the moon should be visible, but Muslims still tend to follow the traditional method of looking at the sky themselves and physically "sighting" the moon. Thus, the exact day of the beginning of Ramadan is not generally known until the night before the fast begins, when the moon is actually sighted and confirmed.
Mything Links' General Reference Pages:
* MythingLinks Search Engine
* Cross-cultural, Multi-regional, Interdisciplinary Collections
* General Reference Page: (online libraries, reference help, literary texts, world languages, word-lover sites, help on writing research papers, copyright information, film plots, themes, and/or films representing various historical periods)
* Special Interest Sites for Pacifica Faculty, Students & Colleagues: (includes Jung, Campbell, Freud, Eliade, Otto, Hillman, other depth psychologists, mysticism, anthropology, religious studies, archetypal perspectives, foundations for mythology & psychology, relevant journals, books, videos, etc.)
* Teachers' Reference Page for Primary & Secondary School Education
Near East Opening Page/Index
Myth*ing Links' Near Eastern pages:
__________________________________________________The Tigris-EuphratesRiver Valley
(also known as Mesopotamia, Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria)
Lilith Remembered: a poem by Kathy Robles
(which once covered much of modern Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel)
Anatolia & Central Asia
(which once covered much of modern Turkey & beyond to the Eurasian steppes)
The Three Desert-Born Monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity & IslamJudaismThe Crone Papers: Notes on the Mideast:
Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya, an 8th Century Islamic Saint from Iraq
What Can We Do About Terrorism? by Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret.
Myth*inglinks' Home Page
Note: my Site Map and e-mail address will be found on my Home Page.
This page created with Netscape Gold 3.01
Technical assistance: William Weeks
Text and Design:
© This text is copyright 1999-2012 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
New page created & designed 26 November 2001 12:45-4am with portions transplanted
from the original Near Eastern & 3 Monotheisms pages.
Latest Updates: 27-29 November 2001 (still designing; adding new links);
1-2 December 2001 (finished new links & launched the page at 12:01am on 12/2/01; Nedstated);
14 December 2001 (2 updates); 24-25 July 2002: added new unannotated Hagar/Ishmael/Sarah art links;
16 January 2003: deleted major Rabi'a links and added link to new Rabi'a page,
which is where those links have now been transferred.
21 March 2006: added new Judaism link.
12 August 2006: added new Islamic Calendar link since others are now broken.
17 September 2009: updated Nedstat/Motigo.
Pre-dawn, 31 July 2011: now that Ramadhan has moved around the year from winter to summer,
I'm giving Ramadhan its own page by splitting it off from the general Islam page.
Later, daytime now: added two new links and decided to add photos too, lest the page seem too austere.
3:35pm, 22 July 2012: checked all links and updated any changes.
Note: Bar-separators are a detail cropped from a 14th century Egyptian scroll; used courtesy of Islamic Art.