Ramadan builds interfaith harmony in India7:13 PM, June 21, 2017
India(Delhi):Muslim holy month is a period for others to understand the religion and be a part of it.
Muslims offer prayers on the first Friday of Ramadan in Allahabad on June 2. (Photo by IANS)
Gunjan Kumar, a Hindu, looks forward to the holy month of Ramadan for the whole year. Beside the committed period of fasting and prayer, what Kumar likes is the spirit of religious harmony and brotherhood the period generates.
Kumar may not adhere to the strict fasting routines of the religion, but likes to visit his Muslim friends at sunset for the meal that break's the day's fast and starts the evening prayer.
"My Muslim friends invite me for iftar. I like the way the family gathers for prayers and breaks their fast with some fresh or dry fruits followed by dinner," Kumar told ucanews.com.
He said that the period is an occasion to get to know the Muslim religion and be a part of it.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims as the month of fasting. The month lasts 29-30 days based on the visual sighting of the crescent moon.
The month of Ramadan is considered by Muslims as a holy month where they observe a dawn-to-dusk fast without food or even water as an exercise in spiritual self-purification. This year, the Ramadan lasts from May 26 to June 25, ending with Eid al-Fitr.
The holy month also sees several high-profile iftar gatherings across the country organized by different political parties and members from other religions.
In Azamgarh district of the north Indian state Uttar Pradesh, Gulab Yadav, a Hindu, gets up before dawn. He wakes up Muslim families in his locality for the Sehri, an early-morning, pre-dawn meal consumed by Muslims before the start the fast.
The practice, started by his father, "gives me peace," he said.
For Jesuit Father Victor Edwin, a Delhi-based theologian, the month is an opportunity for people to cultivate and deepen relations with people of all faiths.
"Iftar is not only for Muslims who are fasting but is a communal meal that helps cultivate mutual respect. It is a foundation on which we build human, cultural and religious relations," he said.
The Jesuit priest said he likes to visit his Muslim friends during this time of the year.
"They wait to have iftar with me. It is this welcome into Muslim life that inspires me and deepens my love for the community," he said.
Father Norbert Hermann, who is the director of the interfaith forum of Maitri Sadan (friendship home) in Udaipur district of northern Indian state of Rajasthan, said Hindu and Muslim organizations organize gatherings during the period where everyone is invited irrespective of religion.
"It has helped nurture harmonious relations between different groups and communities in the area," he said.
For Muhammad Junaid, a Mumbai-based Muslim who fasts during Ramadan, it is an unspoken understanding between him and his office colleagues about his needs and priorities during this time.
"They understand if I arrive at work late or leave a little early. Even when I break my fast sometimes in the office in the evening, one or two colleagues like to accompany me," he said. "It is the holy month. Everybody wants to be a part of it."
A month of sacrifice and restraint
The discipline required during Ramadan goes far beyond the act of fasting. "The month-long period is like training yourself for the whole year. You have to remain calm and composed. This is the basic training that trains you for life," Junaid said.
Hafiz Ahmed Hawari, head of the All India Jamail-ul Hawari, told ucanews.com that Ramadan is the month of love and patience.
"Even the poor who do not eat good nutritious food all year get it during this period. Nobody is turned away," he said.
Echoing the same views, Father Edwin said that care for the poor is an important spiritual value during Ramadan.
He said different mosques in the national capital organize iftar and sehri and everyone who comes in, whether it is the rickshaw driver or the laborer, leaves with a full stomach.
Muslims are the second largest religious community in India after Hindus. They form 14.2 per cent of the 1.3 billion people in India.
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