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Muslims prepare for start of Ramadhan

Muslims around the globe are preparing for the commencement of Ramadhan, the month of worship, sacrifice and charity, that begins this weekend around much of the Muslim world, as soon as the new moon is sighted.

This year’s Ramadhan will be the first without any curbs since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020.

Residents interviewed say they plan to fully enjoy this Ramadhan and have full religious activities amid relaxed pandemic restrictions but keep an eye on Covid-19 as well.

Mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa during the Friday Khutbah (sermon) urged the worshippers to look out for the Ramadhan crescent moon.

Imams delivered special Friday sermons aimed at inspiring Muslims to prepare themselves for the month of Ramadhan which is fast approaching.

In Kenya Ramadhan is expected to begin in the evening of Saturday, 2 April and end in the evening of Monday, 2 May 2022.

The mosques across town have also started special sessions and classes (Darsa) to usher in the holy month of fasting.

Others have started making and distributing Ramadhan timetables containing the dates of the beginning and end of the holy month to the faithful.

The moon sighting is usually done with telescopes or gazing the skies with the naked eye before it is announced.

Fasting during Ramadhan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, five daily prayers, giving Zakah (charity) and performing the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

The month commemorates the first revelation of the holy Quran (Koran) to Prophet Muhammad according to the Islamic faith.

During Ramadhan which is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, faithful abstain from eating, drinking, sex and smoking from dawn to sunset.

Ramadhan requires every mentally and physically fit Muslim, who is past the age of puberty, to abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn to dusk during the month.

Fasting is compulsory upon every Muslim male or female but exemptions include children under the age of puberty, insane people, men and women who are too old to undertake the obligation of fast.

Others include sick people whose health is likely to be severely affected by the observance of fast, pregnant women and women breast-feeding their children and women in the period of menstruation.

“Muslims should look out for the moon from today (Friday) and Saturday and if not sighted, Sunday will automatically be the first day of Ramadhan,” said Sheikh Abud Mohamed of Sheikh Jundan mosque.

Sheikh Mohamed said the fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to Allah and to remind them of the sufferings of the less fortunate members of the society.

“Ramadhan is almost upon us and we should be preparing to mark the holy month with fasting and intense prayers” he said in his sermon.

The cleric said during the blessed month, Muslims observe a strict fast between dawn and dusk and participate in pious activities such as Koran recitations, prayers and charitable giving.

“Ramadhan is a month of mercy and bonding and spreading happiness all around,” he said, adding that Muslims should pray for religious harmony, peace, prosperity and tranquility in the country.

Sheikh Omar Buya a religious scholar says the month of Ramadan instills a sense of empathy within the Muslim community.

“It allows us to understand the situation of the less fortunate members of the society and to feel and experience the pain of hunger and the pangs of thirst that the poor feel everyday” he said.

On his part, the Kenya National Muslim Advisory Council (KEMNAC), Chairperson Sheikh Juma Ngao, said Muslims should refrain from talking ill of others and participate in acts of compassion.

“Generally Ramadhan is a period of intense reflection, spiritual renewal, inner joy and peace” said Sheikh Ngao.

Sheikh Ngao said while Ramadhan is a month of fasting and deep reflection, devotion to God and self-control ‘it is also a time for socializing, food sharing and festive atmosphere’.

“It gives us an opportunity to rectify ourselves through performing numerous good deeds such as providing food to the needy, improving social interactions and giving a lot of charity,” he said.

Sheikh Ngao has urged the well-off Muslim families to help the less fortunate members of the society during this holy month of Ramadhan to enable them to observe the fast comfortably.

During the month-long fasting period hundreds of street vendors across Mombasa sell a variety of authentic Swahili homemade delicacies that are irresistible and used in iftar (the fast-breaking meal observed during Ramadhan).

Entire streets are taken over by the food vendors during the Ramadhan season and transformed into a vibrant food bazaar but Muslims have to wait until dusk to partake in the mouthwatering myriad delicacies.

Throughout the month, people throng the many crowded Ramadhan food bazaars specially set up for the faithful to buy Swahili cuisine to break the fast.

The mushrooming food bazaars in the streets of Mombasa during the fasting month have become a sort of an annual phenomenon.

It is brisk business and a month of windfall for Ramadhan food traders as many households and visitors head to the bazaars to buy ready-made meals for their breaking of the fast.

Ramadhan bazaars are special and popular as some traditional and rare delicacies they sell are only found during the fasting month.

Some of the delicacies sold in the open include dates, pancakes, kebab, Shewerma, samosas, mahamri (Swahili doughnut), Kaimati (sweet dumplings) and Viazi karai (fried potatoes) among other array of delicacies.

Dates are sweet fruits that grow in a palm-like tree and are mostly found in the Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Syria and United Arab Emirates.

Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) Organizing Secretary Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa says dates are traditionally the first food faithful break their daylong fast in the evening.

The rise in popularity of Ramadhan bazaars may be directly attributed to the wide range of food sold and the opportunities afforded to the many stallholders.

Muslim faithful in a Mombasa mosque listening to a Friday Khutbah extoling on the virtues of the fasting month of Ramadhan

The food bazaars not only make it convenient for Muslims observing the fast to buy food at economical prices but have attracted non-Muslims to buy delicacies even though they are not observing or breaking any religious fast.

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