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An art easily explaining Ramadhan traditions

(Part 2 of 2)

The month of Ramadhan is known as the month of the Qur’an, where Muslims use their time to complete reading the holy book more than once, understanding its meanings, and asking God for a great reward.

Some religious institutions adopt Ramadhan competitions for memorizing the Holy Qur’an for all age groups and for both sexes, male and female, and valuable prizes are allocated in order to motivate them to do so.

Muslims are raised since childhood to pay attention to the Holy Qur’an and appreciate it.

One of the Omani customs that motivates children to complete reading the whole Holy Qur’an is "Al-Tuminah".

"Parents send their children to learn the Qur’an and memorize it with Omani teachers. Before the end of the holy month, the children who seal the Qur’an (either read or memorize) are honoured in a festivity called "Al-Tuminah" [name can vary from region to region]," shared Omani artist Marwa al Hinai who embarked on a journey to document some of the most important Ramadhan traditions through her art of Warli — a folk-art painting used by the Warli tribe of Maharashtra in India where the technique of the drawing is very basic using simple graphic vocabulary that usually includes triangle, rectangle, circle, line... etc.

"One of the warli I created is this custom of Al Tuminah. What is fascinating about this practice is that the teacher roams with his students in the village or neighbourhood, chanting an anthem that says at the beginning (Thanks to God who guided us to Islam) and the children chant after him (Ameen). The children repeat these simple and beautiful words while carrying some lanterns, wearing the most beautiful clothes, and the Qur’an teacher in the middle joining in the fun and happiness," she explained.

Marwa shared that she remembered this ritual as a kid and therefore has a special place in her heart.

At the end of this celebration, "Sweets and popular foods are distributed to the children in an organized manner, with supplications from which the children learn the meaning of the good values and principles that Omani society adheres to, and which derives from the true Islamic religion," Marwa said.

Another custom associated with the "Al- Tuminah" is also that at the end of the roaming, the student’s family give a gift to the teacher, which is often clothes of the most luxurious and finest types. The celebration, hence, was called "Hiba" as one of its names (which means "the gift"). The celebration may take place inside the school or the student's home, as it happens these days.

Asked what other traditions she has documented, Marwa added that Tarawih prayer is one of the spiritual rituals on the nights of Ramadhan and is performed immediately after the evening prayer, and it is a Confirmed Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

"Sunnah means that it is not obligatory, but rather optional, as the one who performs it is rewarded and the one who leaves it does not sin, and this is from the ease in the Islamic religion," she clarified.

She added, "In mosques, Imam who has memorized the Holy Qur’an and have a good voice and morals are employed, so that Muslims gather behind them to feel the spirituality of the holy month and relieve themselves from the worries of life and seek reward from God."

She added, "Many complete the recitation of the Qur’an at the end of the month, as he divides its parts for thirty days. After completing the Tarawih prayer, The Imam stands for supplication, and the Muslims who have completed the prayer repeat behind him "Ameen" asking that God grant them the success, forgiveness and heaven."

Marwa also touched on Itikaaf, which usually happens in the last ten days of Ramadhan. She explained this is a favourite ritual for many people where Muslims lock themselves in the mosque or at home and devote themselves to worship, such as prayer, supplication and recitation of the Qur’an, but he does not deprive himself of nutrition and body comfort. It is possible for a Muslim to perform Itikaaf on any day throughout the year, but during Ramadhan, the hope is to get a great reward.

''In Oman, sports and cultural tournaments are organized at the level of clubs and neighbourhoods, and the families and competitors gather after Tarawih prayers in the designated areas and continue to play until midnight, then return home to rest, pray Tahajud (worship), eat Suhoor, and prepare for the dawn prayer," she said.

Marwa added, "Suhoor is a meal that Muslims eat in Ramadan and before the dawn call to prayer, and it is usually a light meal that helps reduce the impact of the day on the fasting person. It is associated with the profession of "Almousaharati" that no longer exists except on a very, very small scale. It is a name given for the person who wanders on the streets after midnight (around 3:00 AM) while beating a drum and calling sleeper to wake up, have suhoor and pray."

Musaharati is usually accompanied by kids who enjoy helping him in carrying the lantern or beating drums. The popular words of Musaharati calling mean "Awake, oh faster and praise Allah. Welcome to you Ramadhan, the month of forgiveness."

Firing the Iftar cannon was a common custom used to mark the end of the fasting period. Iftar cannon 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 in Egypt. It is just a sound used to announce to 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.

There are many more traditions that Marwa covered including the Ramadhan series and competitions on TV and shopping where Muslims usually buy what they need as preparation for Eid. Muslims in Eid usually wear beautiful clothes and adornments as an expression of joy that they have completed the fasting in Ramadhan and asking God to accept it, and it is a Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, the prophet Mohamed peace be upon him.

Marwa enjoys sharing some Ramadhan rituals and customs through warli "For the ease of presenting the idea and an invitation to understand our customs and religion for non-Muslims."

Marwa said that warli as an art can be traced to the 10th century and what she loves about it is that as the artist, she can position and control the movement of the characters in the art.

"This art is very minimal with colours mostly using a lot of white space. The contemporary artists, nevertheless, were able to transcend the boundaries and utilise this art in the proportion of their artistic needs," she noted. Marwa explained that this kind of art (Warli art) is a modern style of pre-historic cave paintings.

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