The blessed month of Ramadhan is awaited by both young and old not only in Oman but all over the world because of its value and the spirituality that it carries.
Ramadhan rituals for Omanis are a sacred matter. Having inherited many of these practices from their ancestors, they are keen on keeping them alive. These rituals can be seen not only in how the Omanis behave but how they conduct themselves.
Omani artist Marwa Al Hinai celebrated the holy month of Ramadhan the same as everyone else — not being able to do the things their family have done as a ritual in the past. With Covid19 changing nearly every possible way the holy month is celebrated, she focused her energy on documenting her fond memories of Ramadhan by painting and this time, employing the popular Indian art ‘Warli.”
One of those she documented is the moon sighting that puts the holy month of Ramadhan into motion.
People in ancient times relied on primitive methods to explore this month. “Ramadhan kicks off by seeing the crescent moon. In the past, this is through people who have clear eyes and can see the moon from the sky. Once the moon is spotted, the people were informed through the loud noise that the firing of the cannon makes. Once people hear this fired cannon, everyone knows that the next day is the beginning of the month of Ramadhan,” Marwa said.
Such practice is nearly extinct today. With technological development, “this month is explored by a specialized committee and people know about seeing Ramadhan’s crescent through mainstream media,” she pointed out.
Visiting relatives is also one of the customs and traditions done by Omanis during the month of Ramadhan.
“The family members are keen to gather for the Iftar (the meal in which the fasting person breaks his fast and is at sunset). Some people may travel long distances to attend Iftar parties organized in Ramadhan. They know that these moments are special and they can have a fun time with their relatives,” she shared.
Fasting people in the Sultanate used to break the fast with dates (an indication of the Omani’s connection to the date palm), water and milk mainly, despite everything that is made at home, including meals and pastries.
Before Iftar, she pointed out, the mothers send their children to the neighbours with some food of Iftar, which include a range of popular dishes.
“It is a distinctive habit that Omani society has preserved since ancient times and embodies the concepts of tolerance, familiarity, love and good neighbourliness,” she explained.
“At the same time, dishes of food like dates, milk and Logaimat (popular food) are sent to mosques near their homes. That’s for passers-by and poor people to eat them for Iftar. This comes in line with the deeds of righteousness and benevolence, which are frequently done and paid attention to during the holy month of Ramadhan as a kind of worshipping,” she added.
Provide Iftar meals for the needy are become active because it has a great reward as it is one of act of worships in Ramadhan. From the Islamic perspective, the Messenger of Allah said that “Whoever provides the food for a fasting person to break his fast with, then for his is the same reward as his (the fasting person’s), without anything being diminished from the reward of the fasting person.”
Therefore, “If you go north the Sultanate or south, you find tents for this purpose along the streets. Whereas, along the public roads in the Sultanate, the passer-by can stop his car and choose one of the tents and eat Iftar,” she pointed out.
She added that there are popular habits linked to give the Iftar which is distributing Iftar meals, randomly, for people on the streets whomsoever walking or driving.
Charitable works as well are active and everyone is eager to do good in this blessed month because they are seeking the pleasure of God and the great reward. “Muslims collaborating together to help the needy and that is to convey messages of familiarity and empathy. Volunteer teams and charitable societies are active during Ramadhan and they provide food, clothes, money and necessary needs for the needy,” she explained.
Among Ramadhan customs that ceased to exist among the Omani society is the lack of the Iftar cannon, which is considered to have a great influence on those who are fasting in the past. The Maghrib call to prayer has become the official and popular time for the end of a day of the month and the start of a night full of Ramadhan activities and religious worship.
“Iftar cannon is a traditional habit in some Islamic countries at Ramadhan and the story says that this habit started from Egypt. It just a sound used to announce residents about the time of Iftar before Maghreb’s prayer at the time of sunset. This operation happening under the supervision of the army,” she mentioned.
Just as the phenomenon of the iftar cannon has become extinct, the “Almousaharati” no longer exist except on a very, very small scale. “It is a name given for the person who wandering on the streets after midnight (around 3:00 AM) while beating a drum and calling sleeper to wake up, have Sohor (food before fasting) and pray,” she said.
Usually, as she added, the Musaharati accompanied by kids who enjoy helping him in carrying the lantern or beating drums. The popular words of Musaharati calling means “Awake, oh faster and praise Allah. Welcome to you Ramadhan, the month of forgiveness.”
Some believe that the reason for the extinction of this habit is due to modern life with all its technologies that no longer calls for the existence of the Almousaharati now, were alarm clock do the task instead of him. (Part 1 of 2)