There is a large number of Muslims in India—around 200 million. Islam is the second largest religion in India, following Hinduism. Daily News Egypt will shed light on Indian Muslims’ traditions during the holy month of Ramadan.
Despite the great diversity of religions and beliefs in India, everyone lives there in harmony and tolerance. Muslims in India freely celebrate the holy month all across the country.
You can see the people in the streets overwhelmed by feelings of joy and happiness, exchanging congratulations for the start of Ramadan without religious fanaticism from other religions’ believers.
Some of the Indian customs during Ramadan are very similar to Arab and Egyptian customs.
One of these customs is the “mesaharaty” (dawn awakener), who beats on his drum to wake people up for their late-night meal, suhoor, before starting their fast at daybreak.
Some may think that the concept of a mesaharty exists in Arab countries only, but he is also known among the Muslims in India, where he is called “sahri”. At the end of Ramadan, the sahri receives gifts and money in gratitude for his efforts throughout the holy month.
Children in India are keen to buy Ramadan lanterns and wander through popular neighbourhoods singing traditional songs celebrating the holy month.
One of the familiar scenes in India during Ramadan is the communal iftar (evening meal) in the neighbourhood mosque, where every person brings fruit, sweets, and juices. Everyone participates in preparing this meal. Before the iftar, you can see children and adults carrying dishes heading to the neighbourhood mosque.
One of the strangest customs in India during Ramadan is that Muslims break their fast with salt before eating anything else.
Rice is a main dish for Indians, along with “dahi bhindi”. It is an easily made dish covered with a creamy, lightly spiced, tangy sauce. Another famous dish is “haleem”, which includes wheat or barley, meat, and sometimes lentils. It is cooked for eight hours and served with special Indian spices and flavours. The Indians have their major meal after the Tarawih prayer, including meat, rice, vegetables, and bread. Indian cuisine has many other delicious dishes, such as biryani, korma, kebab, kefetah, and tandoori chicken, as well as other famous dishes.
Indian Muslims enjoy different types of juices, sweets, and dates after Tarawih prayer throughout the holy month.
Lemon juice and milk are the main drinks in India, while some areas prefer rice milk with turmeric and coconut. The Indians believe that this drink helps fasting Muslims to bear the thirst and hunger throughout the days of fasting, providing them with great energy.
Muslims in India are also keen to wear a special type of cap, called “taqiyah” or “kufi”, during Ramadan. They spend most of their time in mosques, whether to pray or read Quran. Every Muslim does his best to complete the reading of the whole Quran during this month.
Indian Muslims are keen to perform Tarawih prayer at mosques, which usually consists of twenty or eight rakʿas (kneelings). Sometimes sermons are delivered by clerics or scholars between the Tarawih prayers, calling people to adhere to Islamic rituals and rules.
Some mosques lack official clerics, so the neighbourhood residents bring scholars from other regions to do the job.
Laylat al-Qadr in India
Indian Muslims observe the last 10 nights of the holy month of Ramadan by practicing “iʿtikāf” at different mosques, especially on Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Decree), which is usually the 27th night of Ramadan and has great value for all Muslims. The Muslims in India prepare themselves very well for this night and deal with it like a feast, as they wear new and perfumed clothes, practice prayers, read the Quran, and distribute sweets. On the next day, they visit their relatives’ graves and read the Quran there.
On the last Friday of Ramadan, Muslims in India bid farewell to the holy month by flocking in large numbers to large mosques.
They clean the streets surrounding the mosques to absorb the large number of worshipers on that day. The traffic stops around mosques at this time.
The Eid al-Fitr holiday also has special value for Muslims in India, as they sew new clothes at home; almost all Indian houses have sewing machines. On the first day of Eid, Muslims head to public squares to perform the Eid prayer, where there are many vendors who sell toys and balloons, spreading joy among the children.