It is said that the holy book of Quran first revealed itself to the Prophet Mohammed in the month of Ramazan, which is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Hence it is a month of piety for Muslim communities across the world.
The importance of this month doesn’t end at the Quran; it is
also believed that the gates of heaven are open while gates of hell are closed
during this month. It acts an added incentive for performing good deeds and staying away
from sinful mortal ways.
Ramzan, typically, falls in the summer months of May and June. It is said to be a month where a good follower of Islam needs to focus on fasting, prayer, reflection and community.
Is it Ramzan or Ramadan?
Over the last couple of years, Rama’d’an has garnered popularity. Let’s get one thing correct, both Ramadan and Ramzan are correct; it is because of the roots of the words that the difference becomes important in India. It is all about pronunciation in Arabic and Urdu, which is derived from Persian. The stress on ‘d’ is part of Arabic ‘duad’ hence Ramadan, which in Urdu becomes ‘zuad’ therefore Ramzan.
Keeping in mind that Urdu has been embraced as an Indian language, it’s always Ramzan for us. Although you can go ahead and wish Ramadan Kareem to folks, it does have a nice to ring to it.
Ramzan Fast or Roza
Contrary to popular belief, Ramzan fasting or Roza is not about atoning for sins committed but it is practicing self-restraint. The fasts start at the break of dawn and end when the sun sets; apart from staying away from food and drink, it also includes keeping unkind thoughts, immoral acts and anger at bay. The fasts allows followers of Islam to feel the pain and suffering of those less fortunate than them. Fasting also is one of the five pillars of Islam along
An pre-dawn meal, Sehri, is eaten and dishes include nourishing nalli nihari, paya, sheermal, foods that will sustain the body through the hot summer day’s work.
The day of Ramzan fasting ends with dates and glass of milk or sherbet. Many choose to have three dates emulating the Prophet. Health benefits of dates also make the fruit a great option for breaking the fast. After the call for iftar is made at the mosque, family and friends come together to have a meal together. The Iftar meal has become the highlight for Ramzan. Even Donald Trump hosted an iftar party for Muslim members from his administration and top diplomats at the White House!
Markets such as Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai and Jama Masjid in Delhi become lively with eateries, big and small, drawing people from afar to try dishes.
The Importance of Dates
After a long day of Roza or Fasting, the first morsel one consumes are dates. It maybe a custom passed down generations, but it is rooted in science and nutrition of the dried fruit. Dates are rich is carbohydrates, sugar and micronutrients, which makes them instant energy booster. Ramzan fasts can be demanding for your stomach, dates’ alkalinity helps an empty stomach prepare for a meal, while the fibre content ensures that you feel full for a longer period.
Wah Rooh Afza!
A singular drink, Rooh Afza, literally refresher of the soul, is a drink that every Indian has fond memory of. The drink becomes an integral part during Ramzan every year, since it is the go-to drink during Iftaar. The rose-flavoured drink is known for its cooling properties, which are much needed during the hot months that herald in the holy month of Ramzan.
If not Rooh Afza,Then What?
If you are wary of the cloying sweetness that Rooh Afza brings along with it, there are alternatives. We got a Syrian chef to share his childhood Ramzan drinks with LF—Kerkedeh and Jallab. The former uses dried hibiscus flowers that are cooked with cinnamon and cloves, while the latter uses grape and date syrup along with rose water.
Mysteries of Haleem
Haleem is one of those one-pot dishes that will sustain you through the day. Made using wheat and mincemeat cooked in a LOT of ghee with dry fruits and whole spices, haleem has become a special treat during Ramzan. Hyderabadi haleem, of all the variations, has a special place; Pista House in the city of pearls has Geographical Indication (GI) status by the Government of India, which means no other city or state can make or market haleem as Hyderabadi haleem.
Muslim households of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have made Ramzan and Iftar their own by inculcating regional culinary sensibilities. Nombu kanji, a quick rice porridge is the go-to iftar dish in these states. The completely vegetarian dish is made from local varieties of rice and no two homes will have similar nombu kanji.
While the month of Ramzan is known for its non-vegetarian delights, there is plenty on offer for vegetarians. From a variety of pulaos to an array of rich dals, there is something for everyone. As a matter of fact, going vegetarian after the rigorous fast is good idea for your digestive system. Veggies also offer a lot more of nutrients too.
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