Friday, December 29, 2000

Roja ends with zeal among Muslims

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Dec 28 - Hundreds of thousands of Muslims around the country, as well as the world over, celebrated the greatest Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, today, ending the month-long Roja, strict daylight fasting, with the sighting of the new moon.

For the whole month of Ramjan, Muslims do not eat or drink anything till the sun sets.Even swallowing saliva is considered to be a sin for the strict observers of Roja, compulsory to all adult Muslims of both sexes, they say. Eid ends in a delightful festival symbolising tolerance, love, friendship and hospitality.

On this day, the Muslims hug one another, brush away past enmity and promise one another a happy and friendly year to come. All Muslim households prepare sumptuous feasts and invite friends and relatives in a cheerful mood of sharing.

Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of Roja fasting. On this day, they invite guests, eat various dishes together and buy new clothes and give money to hermits and beggars. "Even the poorest of Muslim wishes to buy new cloth to mark this great festival and show his faith in Allah," they say.

Twenty-two years old Matin Uddin Shekh, who runs a clothes store at Khichapokhari said that following the strict rules of the month-long fast is just like climbing a mountain. "For the first half of the month, each day becomes difficult to pass and the second half is full of joy. The nearer you reach the end, your heart begins to fill with a holy excitement and you do your best to complete the cycle," he says.

"Naturally, we feel hungry. But, we do not seem to take notice of any foodstuff. A strange energy comes from within which keeps our sinful desires away," he adds.

Roja is compulsory only for adults, but his two-year-old nephew Nazir Shekh is also following it religiously.

Jaffar Uddhin of Nepali Jame Masjid said that the Muslims chose this month because it is the holiest in the whole year. "This month is chosen by Allah," he says.

Muslims believe the Koran, their holy book, was revealed to Mohammed over the Ramjan period, 1400 years ago. They say that this is a holy month by many means and any virtue done during this month is equal to doing it seventy times more during the rest of the year.

The month of Rajman is fixed according to Muslim calendar. But, the daily fasting period and the month also changes every year.

This month-long ritual teaches the people to live a modest and religious life. "The rules remind us of the roots of Islam, which should be the guidelines for the rest of life. Observing Roja for a month purifies us for the world’s betterment for the next 11 months," Uddhin said.

Shekh says, some may even escape by making some excuses,in cities, but in rural areas the whole village follows the fasting of Roja strictly. Only sick, elderly and new mothers are excused by the religion. "Nothing like modernisation has ever affected the people’s zeal to remain hungry for a month and celebrate the end of it as a great festival."

All religions consider fasting as a way of regular, religious life. The Muslims take fasting as one of the five basis of Islam; other four being faith, prayer, pilgrimage and donation.

According to 1991 national census, Muslim population in Nepal is around 665 thousand.
[Kathmandu Friday December 29, 2000 Paush 14, 2057.]