The Holy Month Of Ramadhan!

For Muslims community in Penang, Ramadhan is one of the very important occasion and the holiest month. It is in the 9th month of Muslim calendar year, Muslim from all walks of life observed fasting in which they will abstain the pleasure of eating, drinking and carnal desires and actions from sunrise to sunset. It is know that fasting is one of the five basic duties of Islam. The cycle of Ramadhan usually last
from 29 days to 30 day, after which Muslims will celebrate Aidil-Fitri (The traditional Malay festivals - Hari Raya Puasa)

A few minutes before sunset is when break fast is being perform. Dinner table is filled with interesting food such as cakes, desserts, sweet drinks and home-cooked savories - Something that cannot be seen during normal day. As soon as the muezzin's call to prayer is heard, Muslims break fast by taking a sip of water or some sweet drink, followed by a date or two. They then excuse themselves from the dining table to perform the evening prayer, which is called Maghrib, before continuing with their meal.

*Photo by Flickr
Other than performing a religious obligation, it is known that fasting also brings some other benefits to the mind and body. Among them is the cleansing of toxins and
other waste from the body, accumulated from 335 days of eating three times a day. Your body is probably very grateful for the month-long break!

Other faiths in Malaysia, like Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Christianity also observe some form of fasting or temporary abstinence from certain foods and activities. This is not surprising, as it is no secret that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind and spirit.

For Muslims, not only Ramadhan helps by giving their body a much needed break but it also inculcate strict discipline in making sure that no food or drink passed through
their mouth for some 12 hours, from sunrise to sunset. Something that non-Muslim ponders in wonder, amazement and sympathy.

The ritual preparation for breaking fast is by getting up as early as 4am in the morning to prepare for meal and making sure that there is sufficient food to break fast with.

When breaking fast, Muslims are advised to practice moderation. They are told that the intake of food during Ramadhan should be no different than food intake during non-fasting days. But who can blame them for taking extra more. After all the hard day of work and fasting, they will definitely look forward to a little something extra at mealtime, without over-indulging of course.

Another interesting sights during a month old Ramadhan will be the setting-up of hundreds of stalls everywhere selling all kinds of foods - Freshly grilled chicken, rice prepared in different ways and savory meats. There are also many varieties of Malays Kueh (Cakes), some of
which are next to impossible to get during other months.

You don't usually see such an eclectic mix of sweetmeats on "regular" days as the variety of kueh literally explodes in contrasting and mouth watering hues of red, green, blue, pink, purple, brown, white and yellow. Choosing what you want at that time requires great restraint!

But... With a rumbling stomach in tow, it's all too easy for one to go overboard just a little!

Popular place to buy food for breaking fast can be found at the Komtar promenade, which is also known as Pasar Ramadhan, the stalls in Jalan Makloom and the stalls in front of the Glugor post office. Stalls are open as early as 4pm right until the breaking of fast, at around 7pm. Be prepared to jostle and fight your way in with the unusual large crowds while waiting for your grilled chicken or satay to be prepared.

Ramadhan comes to an end upon the sighting of the new moon. As with the breaking of fast, lavish spreads of food are served on the first day of Syawal (Hari Raya Puasa) to family members and guests. If you see some of your Muslims friends picking at their food rather slow, it is because their bodies have not adjusted to eating in the daytime! Ironically, when their appetites do return, most of the goodies have already gone!

Some Muslims, especially the women, resume fasting on the third day of Syawal, to "replace" the days that they couldn't fast during Ramadhan. All Muslims are forbidden to fast on the first day of Syawal, but are encouraged to fast for an additional six days (called puasa enam, which literally translates to six fasts) during the month of Syawal. The reason for this is rather vague, but for each day one fasts, it is equivalent to 10 days of fasting, so thirty days of fasting would equal
300 days, add another six days and it means you have fasted for 360 days, or a year.

It is quite common during the festive day (Hari Raya Puasa); Muslims will practice "open house”, where they will invite everyone to their homes.

So... If you come to Penang during Hari Raya Puasa, do visit some of the open house being arranged by Penang state government or Penang tourism organization to experience for yourself the unique culture and interesting glimpse of the Ramadhan.

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