[R]uben, an Australian Christian/atheist became Abu Bakr after he converted to Islam. Whilst researching about different religions what struck his mind and heart when he first visited a Mosque was a huge congregation of people of different races and colours, praying in unison to one God, hearts and bodies in oblivion to the differences that exist. Such grand is the religion of Islam; he thought and converted to Islam. Later he came to know that it was the first night of Ramadan. Ramadan, a holy month in the Islamic calendar witnesses a huge rush of people to mosques, praying for the forgiveness of the sins they commit through-out the year gone by and for the sins they are going to commit in future.
Kashmir is not different to the scene around the world. We begin our preparations days before for the holy month in our own grand fashion keeping in-view our appetite, the eggs, babr’e buil, butter, fruits and even cigarettes (if you are smokers) get stocked up in our store rooms. The fervour of Eid at the end of Ramadan sets the children all excited about fasting with a meal in the afternoon called particularly in Kashmiri as “Tap’e Sahar”.
The day begins with “Sahr Khan” beating his drum in the streets and singing hymns and chants to wake people up. This is a particular custom in Kashmir and people hold Sahr Khans very dear and noble. At a time when Kashmir is losing many of its traditions and customs, we still hold this tradition in fervour, even though Sahr khan’s role is played by alarm clocks. For most of the people waking up for this meal becomes a war between sleep and Sahr and eventually if Sahr wins, it would be in the last frame of time. From then on it is just a job of filling up your stomach- as much as you can, gulping every bit of the bread and stuffing the mouth with an egg while the mu-azzin calls for Azaan, which means no more eating and drinking for the rest of the day till he again calls Azaan at dusk.
Owing to the excitement and “chaining of the Satan” during Ramadan, the first few days see a phenomenal attendance at all the five times of prayer in the mosques and all of a sudden the people become pious and complete followers of Islam, some shunning cigarettes while others refrain from watching movies and listening to songs. At the Iftaar (evening prayer at dusk) people sometimes take out sweets and other dishes into the mosques for people to break the fast, which of course drives some more attention and even Duhl khaavs (those who don’t fast), pretending to be fasting come to mosques to break their beguiled fast with all the pabulums available. After almost half of the month it seems the Satan is loosen out of the chains and escape to delude people from their religious ardour. Skipping a few days of fast on one pretension or the other and omitting any of the four prayers, one prayer at the time of breaking the fast never loses the flow of people because of the free confectioneries available at the mosques.
When Ramadan is half-way through, the Satan by now seems to regain its strong hold – divide and rule policy. The prayers in the night called Taraweh become his point of division which culminates into people abusing each other and, if Ramadan is in winter, it sees fire-pots (Kangrees) flaring from one group who believe that Taraweh involves eight rakats of prayers to another who believe that they are not less than twenty rakats and the other way round. However, as the Ramadan reaches the end, the faith and piety again take a leap during the night of Shab-e-Qadr. The brotherly behaviour between all the sects gets restored and the numbers in the mosques surge, all in unison, praying to one God, seeking His forgiveness for the sins committed in the Ramadan and asking for good health and another chance for the next Ramadan so as to rectify misdeeds during the current Ramadan.
This holy month finally ends with the chanting of “Alvida ai Mah’e Ramadan” (Good Bye, the Holy Month of Ramadan) and preparations for Eid-ul-Fitr. The children get all the options to choose and buy new dresses and toys which they show-off at the Eidgah during the special prayers of Eid. The sermons during the Eid include a lot of greetings and wishes and advises- advises against burning fire crackers. As soon as the Imam finishes the Eid prayers children run away to their hideouts already filled with stocks of fire crackers. The loud bursting crackers by children announce the commencement of Eid. Once the advice of Imams starts to subside the adults join the children and the Kashmir air smells of a war zone.
Photograph by Presstv.ir