The holy month of Ramadan is an empowering blend of faith, culture, and history – something that is depicted through Ramadan traditions around the world. Every year, Muslim communities across the world practise the principles of abstinence during this Holy Month and celebrate age-old Ramadan traditions.
Some of these Ramadan practices have been kept alive for generations, being passed on from one generation to another. These deeply rooted customs and traditions of Ramadan present themselves as identifiable characteristics of different Muslim communities around the world.
Curious to know what is Ramadan like in different parts of the globe? Read on to get an insight into some of the most fascinating Ramadan traditions around the world!
How is Ramadan Celebrated in Different Countries?
As you read on, you may find certain similarities between the different Ramadan traditions around the world. While some of the concepts remain the same, there are subtle differences in the rituals associated with Ramadan based on the community.
Haq Al Laila
Starting off our list of Ramadan traditions around the world is the Haq Al Laila. The celebration of the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan begins on the eve of 15th Sha’ban – the Islamic month before Ramadan. The basic purpose of this event is to spread awareness among the people and children about the month of Ramadan. Over the years Haq Al Laila has become one of the most religiously practiced Ramadan traditions in UAE.
Children of the neighbourhood come out on the streets dressed cheerfully. They walk around the area singing songs, collecting sweets and chanting “Aatona Allah Yutikom, Bait Makkah Yudikum,” meaning “give to us and Allah will reward you, and help you visit Mecca.”
Talking of Ramadan traditions in Kuwait, what we just described at Haq Al Laila, is quite similar to Qarqian’an here. The difference is that this Ramadan tradition is actually celebrated in the month of Ramadan – not before it. This celebration goes on for three days.
Kids don traditional garb and sing songs. There are different songs for boys and girls. Children often improvise the songs to include special wordings for the person they are singing. The children learn about fasting during this joyous Ramadan practice and the ones who fast are rewarded with sweets.
Padusan for Indonesian Muslims is an act of purification. Among other Ramadan traditions in Indonesia, the Padusan is a purification ritual performed for cleansing of the soul and body for fasting and prayer.
Before the start of Ramadan, the Muslims of Indonesia bathe and cleanse themselves in the natural pools in their vicinity. This deeply embedded cultural practice of Padusan is believed to purify the believer for the month of Ramadan.
When we talk about unique Ramadan traditions around the world, Nyekar is one of them. This Indonesian Ramadan practice takes place before the holy month begins.
The Javanese Muslims indulge in Nyekar – an act of paying their respects to the departed members of their family. According to the ancient Javanese beliefs, the month of Ramadan marks the beginning of a new life cycle and the end of the previous one.
This practice has been passed down through generations, with some rural populations presenting worldly offerings to their deceased ancestors.
This is perhaps one of the most colourful and beautiful Ramadan traditions around the world. Fanous or the Ramadan lanterns are unique, brightly coloured lamps.
As part of the Ramadan traditions in Egypt, the streets, homes and neighbourhoods are lit up with these metal and glass lanterns. Known for their distinct designs and intricate craftsmanship, the fanous has become universally symbolic of Ramadan.
Suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) is essential if one wants to maintain a healthy lifestyle during Ramadan. Waking the believers up for suhoor has great significance in Islam. Almost all Muslim-majority countries in the world have some mechanism that helps the believers wake up for suhoor.
In many Arab countries including Egypt and Jordan, this Ramadan tradition is upheld by the Mesaharaty or the “night caller.” The Mesaharaty’s job is to walk around the neighbourhood streets, calling out for people to wake up. This act is accompanied by the soft beating of the drum.
The Mesaharaty is usually a local, familiar with the families living in the neighbourhood. The fact that these selfless people call out individual family names to wake them up makes this one of the most precious Ramadan traditions around the world.
Imagine being awakened in the middle of the night with loud drum rolls. The situation would leave many agitated, but that’s not how it is in Turkey during Ramadan.
The Turkish drummers clad in traditional garb, with their Davul (double-sided drum) banded to their bodies, roam the streets of Turkey – drumming people awake for suhoor.
They sing and drum their way through the neighbourhood waking people up for a modest tip (bahsis). People often invite the drummers into their homes to share the suhoor meal. Out of all the Ramadan traditions in Turkey, this one stands out for generosity and celebrating the spirit of Ramadan.
The Nafars of Morocco
Similar to the drummers of Turkey and the Mesaharaty of Egypt, it is the Nafars of Morocco that take the responsibility of waking believers up for suhoor. The Nafar, who wears the traditional gandora, a hat, and a simple pair of slippers, saunters through the neighbourhood singing melodious prayers.
The sounds of these prayers sweep through the town, spreading an air of tranquillity and gratitude as believers wake up from their slumber to prepare for the fast. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Ramadan traditions in Morocco.
The townspeople usually select the most empathetic and honest people of the community as Nafars to carry out this esteemed task. On the last night of Ramadan, these men are officially compensated for upholding this longstanding Ramadan tradition in Morocco.
While waking up for suhoor is all-important, there is no harm in having some light-hearted fun during the month of Ramadan. Even Dubai has plenty of Ramadan events and activities for residents to enjoy even when they’re fasting. Out of all the Ramadan traditions in Iraq, the most celebrated one is the game of Mheibes.
After breaking the fast at sunset every day, the men in Iraq gather around the neighbourhood for the game. There are two groups. Each group consists of around 40 to 250 players at a time. The teams take turns to conceal a ring.
The game starts with the leader of one group discreetly passing the ring to one of his team members. These team members sit on the ground with their tight fists placed in their laps. The other team has to guess which of the members has the ring. This game of deceit is simple yet interesting and has been passed down through generations in Iraq.
Firing Cannons for Iftar (Midfa al Iftar)
This is perhaps one of the oldest living Ramadan traditions around the world. Several countries in the Middle East, including Lebanon, practice Midfa al Iftar even today – almost 200 years after it began. Midfa al Iftar wasn’t always a part of the Ramadan traditions in Lebanon.
This Ramadan tradition is said to have originated from Egypt. Once during the month of Ramadan, the then ruler Khosh Qadam accidentally fired a cannon at sunset. Its sound reverberated across the city of Cairo and people mistook it as a signal for the end of the fast. The people widely appreciated the act and eventually made it a tradition.
Many Middle Eastern countries adopted Midfa al Iftar as the official signal to declare the end of the day’s fast. Lebanon has special Midfa al Iftar canons dating back to the 19th Century, used today solely for this purpose.
Bangladesh, India and Pakistan
On the last eve of Ramadan, which is termed as “Chaand Raat” (night of the moon), streets in South Asia come alive with festivity. This is the eve before Eid al Fitr. As per Ramadan traditions in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, friends and families celebrate Chaand Raat with the exchange of desserts and sweet treats.
People go out for last-minute shopping and entertainment. It is a common spectacle in these countries to see girls and women flocking to jewellery stores and make-shift henna stalls to get matching bangles and apply henna on their hands.
The henna application remains a long-standing Ramadan tradition in South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to date. The local bazaars are exuberant with the excitement for Eid and all this collectively uplifts the community spirit.
You Would Also Like To Know
What is the Proper Greeting for Ramadan?
For the month of Ramadan, greetings can be exchanged by saying Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak (Happy Ramadan).
What does “Ramadan Kareem” Mean?
The most frequently used greeting for the holy month of Ramadan is Ramadan Kareem. The greeting translates to “have a blessed Ramadan.”
What is the response to “Ramadan Kareem”?
The most appropriate response to “Ramadan Kareem” is “Allahu Akram,” which roughly translates to “God is all the more generous.” Not a lot of people are familiar with this response and so they resort to “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem” to respond to the greeting.
How Long Does Ramadan Last?
Ramadan can be 29 or 30 days long depending on the moon sighting. The starting and ending dates for the month vary accordingly. Ramadan 2019 started on May 6 and will end on either June 6 or June 7. And if you are in Dubai around this time, don’t forget to try out the best places for suhoor there.
That’s a wrap to this post on Ramadan traditions around the world. We hope you find the information useful and enlightening. Do you have any Ramadan traditions of your own? Share them with us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to know about all your family traditions for Ramadan.