Guest Post By Abdun-Nafay Khawaja
What is Ramadan about?
“When Ramaḍān starts, the doors of Paradise are opened, the doors of Hell are shut down and devils are thrown into chains.”
Last time, we talked about some of the traditions and practices manifested in the Muslim community during Ramadan. To give some further understanding of this holy month, we continue to give a few more instances of activities specific to Ramadan:-
 Ṣaḥīḥ by Al-Bukhārī, no. 3277.
Reduced Working Hours
In almost all Muslim countries, it is a universal practice for both public and private sector, businesses and independent workers, to reduce working hours during the month of Ramadan. In some countries, the new maximum working hours are officially announced each year just before Ramadan, which usually entails a cut of two or even three hours per working day. Private businesses almost invariably close earlier than the rest of the year, with or without government instructions. If possible, most companies also allow the employees a short break during the early afternoon. In Muslim-majority countries, no distinction is observed between Muslims and non-Muslims in this regard.
“Night of Destiny”
Laylah al-Qadr, or the “Night of Destiny”, is the most revered time in the whole month of Ramadan. It is traditionally believed to occur on the 27th night of the month, although interpretations differ slightly among various scholarly traditions. The believers are encouraged to spend this night or a part of it in prayer and recitation of the holy texts. This is the only topic related to Ramadan, which has a whole chapter of Qur’an to its name, where it has been labeled as “Better than one thousand months,” among others. Nevertheless, its practice is not obligatory, and owing to the relative difficulty of the task, even most practicing Muslims do not stay awake on this night. Still, its religious and cultural importance for Muslims as a whole is beyond question.
One of the most evident aspects of Ramadan is the number and scale of large evening parties, offered by well-to-do Muslims all around the world during the fasting period. The feast is offered at the time of sunset when the fast of one day ends. Mostly, early dinner is divided into two parts. The first part traditionally consists of dates, juices, and other light snacks, meant to serve as refreshment while avoiding the unhealthy practice of over-eating immediately after 10-16 hours of hunger. After that, it is customary to offer the Evening Prayer (Al-Maghrib) before the second meal begins. The second is essentially the same formal dinner provided during the rest of the year, except for the timing. Some Iftar parties invite only specific guests, while most are general, and everyone is welcome, sometimes including, interestingly, non-Muslims (it is not uncommon for them to attend in many countries). These giant social gatherings form one of the most enjoyable parts of Ramadan.
 For example, UAE’s announcement for 2020 reduced the working day from eight hours to five hours during the month.
 Chapter 97. The citation is from verse 3 of this chapter.
 In some Arab countries, this practice is so widespread that the majority of population eat at such parties, not their homes. My grandfather remembers once being invited to such a feast with about 100,000 guests in the United Arab Emirates, which is 1 % of the population of the whole country!
Other important days
Many important events of early-Islamic history occurred during this month, and many of them are still remembered today, although exact ways to celebrate them vary widely from region to region. One of the most martyrdoms of Islam, that of Caliph Ali (son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) took place in the last ten days of Ramadan (mostly dated to 21st of the month). It is common practice to give charity and/or offer prayers for him, and more recently, sharing incidents from his life and his quotes on social media, on the day of his martyrdom. Another important event that took place in Ramadan is the almost bloodless Conquest of Mecca by early Muslims in December 629-January 630. All traditions fall within a narrow range of dates in the middle of Ramadan; thus, the exact date of commemoration of this event varies. On the same lines, many other vital events in Ramadan, such as the battles of Badr and Yarmouk, are celebrated with different degrees of enthusiasm by Muslims worldwide.