Snapshots of Ramadan: Capturing a few spiritual and communal moments

Palestine: On the 12th night of Ramadan, Palestinians are captured praying the tarawih, a special nightly prayer, at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, April 2, 2023. This moment was captured in a screenshot from a video by Al Aqsa channel. Fair use.

Muslims all over the world observe Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting and spiritual reflection. This year Ramadan is taking place between March 23 and April 22. Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam —the core practices that serve as the cornerstone of the Islamic faith- along with declaration of faith (shahadah), prayer (salat), charity (zakat), and pilgrimage for those who have the means to do so.

During the 30 days of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual activities, among other pleasures, from sunrise until sunset. The purpose of the fast is to strengthen one's sense of self-control, compassion for those in need, and relationship with God.

There is however, another side to Ramadan. It is a highly anticipated and celebrated occasion in the Islamic world, as it provides a unique opportunity for communities to come together to socialize, share cultural experiences, and give to charity.

The sacred time of prayer in Ramadan

During Ramadan, Muslims increase their frequency of prayer and come together every night at nightfall, after breaking their fast, for a special communal prayer known as “tarawih.” 

Saudi Arabia: Millions of Muslims gathered in Mecca to participate in the first evening of prayers on March 22, 2023. screenshot from Reuters. Fair use

Algeria: During the tarawih prayer in Algeria on April 3, 2023, the 12th day of Ramadan, a cat unexpectedly jumped on the imam while he was leading the prayer. Despite the interruption, he continued his prayers and showed remarkable kindness towards the cat. This screenshot, taken from Al Jazeera English newsfeed captured the heartwarming moment. Fair use

The spirit of togetherness

The holy month also brings Muslims together in a shared cultural experience and social connection. After iftar (breaking their fast), many families get together to take part in family-friendly cultural activities, attend plays, and listen to music during the holy month.

UAE: A visual show narrating the story of Ramdan to children using the characters Latifa, Rashid, and the Msaharati — a street drummer who wakes people up for the late-night or pre-dawn meal known as sohour. Dubai Expo City. April 2, 2023. 11th day of Ramadan. Photo by Lama Shasha. Used with permission.

Jordan: A performance by a swirling Darwish during an iftar event at Royal Hotel in Amman, Jordan. April 2, 2023. Photo by Rima Samara, used with permission.

Elsewhere in the region, thousands of Palestinians have been joyously celebrating the month of Ramadan by singing and dancing around Jerusalem's iconic Damascus Gate each evening after breaking their fast.

Palestine: At Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians gathering in the evening to celebrate Ramadan. Second day of Ramdan. March 23, 2023. Damascus gate. Screenshot from a video by Quds TV. fair use.

However, Tuesday April 4, 2023 marked a sudden and somber change as the festivities came to a halt, leaving many disheartened and stunned.

Heavily armed Israeli forces raided the Al Aqsa Mosque for the second consecutive night on April 5, 2023, attacking hundreds of worshipers who had gathered there for Ramadan prayers.  Videos show them firing stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets, violently beating the worshipers with batons, and forcibly emptying the mosque to make way for Jewish worshippers to enter the Al Aqsa compound. This year, Ramadan, Passover and Easter all coincide this week.

The sudden change in atmosphere highlights the ongoing occupation that continues to cast a shadow over the region.

Palestine: Israeli troops arrested hundreds of Palestinian youth after violently storming the Al Aqsa Mosque. Jerusalem, Palestine, 5 April, 2023, the 14th day of Ramadan. The screenshot was taken from a video by Aljazeera English. Fair use.

Breaking bread and building bonds

While the spirit of Ramadan emphasizes compassion and generosity towards those in need, it is also a time where some people tend to spend more freely. Although it may seem contradictory to spend lavishly during a period of restraint, there is a potential positive impact on the economy. Experts have noted that increased spending during Ramadan can stimulate economic growth, particularly for local businesses that benefit from the higher demand.

Inside Cairo's Ramadan Lanterns at El-Sayeda Zeinab

Egypt: El-Sayeda Zeinab's Ramadan Market, days before the start of the Holy Month in the heart of Cairo, Egypt. 15 March 2023. Photo by Zeinab Mohamed. Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

At Cairo's Ramadan market in El-Seyada Zeinab

Egypt: Al-Sayeda Zeinab's Ramadan Market. Cairo, Egypt. 15 March 2023. Photo by Zeinab Mohamed. Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

This year is a little different though. Muslims across the world face significant challenges with the rising cost of food, as various factors including Russia's war in Ukraine, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change-related events continue to take a toll on the global economy.

In addition to economic challenges, many Muslims around the world are struggling with conflict and displacement.  According to UNHCR, more than 50 per cent of the forcibly displaced under UNHCR’s global purview are in the Muslim world.

Jordan: A Syrian refugee in Jordan, dressed in the traditional Syrian attired is preparing Sous (liccorice), a special drink consumed. during Ramadan. Photo captured on 29 March 2023, 7th day of Ramadan. By Basil Alshahmeh – CC BY-SA 4.0. Fair use.

Despite all the hardships, Muslims remain committed to coming together for communal meals, spending time with friends and family, and expressing generosity towards those in need, during this special time of year.

In Syria, despite the devastating aftermath of the deadly earthquake that claimed over 57,000 lives in both Syria and Turkey on February 6, 2023, around a thousand civilians gathered for a communal iftar in Aleppo amid the rubble.

Syria: A thousand people from Aleppo, gathering together for a communal Iftar on Friday 31 March. the 9th day of Ramadan. Screenshot taken from Aljazeera Arabic video. Fair use.

In Jordan, where 24.1 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, families have been stepping up to lend a helping hand to their fellow community members in the face of soaring prices.

Jordan: This photo features sayadiyah, a Levantine dish made with fish, rice, spices, and nuts, captured by Hanadi Abu Adas in Aqaba, Jordan on the 12th day of Ramadan, April 3, 2023. Hanadi has been cooking and distributing food for dozens of families in need during the holy month of Ramadan. Used with permission.

Whether through faith, culture, or community building, Ramadan serves as a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity and hardship.

1 comment

  • Sakher Ali

    Ramadan is truly a time for giving and gatherings, one could only sense its holliness and blessings by participating in communal activities. Thanks for your article.

    Ramadan Kareem!

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