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Ramadan 2021; A New Experience in Iran
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and a very important month for Muslims all around the world who highly anticipate and appreciate this month.
Muslims believe that it was during this month that the holy book of Islam, Quran was firstly given by God to the prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Also, most of the traditions, beliefs and customs which are held during Ramadan are prescribed in the holy book of Quran as well. There is also a general belief that Ramadan is an opportunity to get closer to God, this is why Muslims love this month and get ready for it during the year. Visiting Iran during the holy month of Ramadan can be a new, pleasant and at the same time spiritual experience. All one has to do when traveling to Iran during Ramadan is to be a little more respectful toward people who are fasting.
The general idea about Muslim countries during Ramadan is something which is not totally true. There is a special protocol happening during this month in a Muslim country of Iran, which I am going to talk about later on. Just to give you a little glimpse of what you are about to read in this blog, there is a very beautiful and special night life in Iran during Ramadan, one you surely do not want to miss.
Like all Muslims around the world, people of Iran are going to experience a different kind of Ramadan this year. Due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, people can no more gather and celebrate the special spirituality of this sacred month. All cultural customs and religious traditions are affected by coronavirus; but to look at it from a different perspective, we will find out that this a great opportunity to get closer to God and reflect on the power of the deity and His will.
Here’s all you need to know about Ramadan and its particular traditions in Iran:
1. The Idea of Ramadan; a Practice for the Whole Year
2. Iran During Ramadan; A Sight Worth Seeing
3. Ramadan Nightlife; A Cherry on Top
4. Special Food of Ramadan; A Delicious Table
5. Ramadan 2021; When Is It?
6. The Religious Cities of Mashhad and Qom; a Spiritual Experience
7. Ghadr Nights; Remembering the Good and the Brave
8. Ramadan; the Grand Feast by God
In almost all of the religions practiced throughout the world, there is some kind of fasting. The length, time and duration of fasting differ in different settings. In Islam, it is prescribed that the Muslims spend a whole month fasting from sunrise to sunset, abide from eating, drinking or smoking. Also, Muslims are told to read the holy book of Islam, Quran every night. Practices such as being nice to people, being kind to animals, helping the poor and to have a greater sense of understanding are among the other ideas that are prescribed to Muslims during this month, Ramadan.
Many Muslims see this month as a practice for the whole year, maybe that is one of the major reasons for its popularity among people. You may be wondering why this month is seen as a practice. It is because of the special doctrines and practices of Ramadan. When you abide from eating or drinking throughout the day, aside from being a self-control practice, you come to know how the poor may feel, in this way you will sympathize more and be more willing to help, with putting yourself in their shoes. When you read the sayings and stories of the holy book of Islam, Quran constantly, you keep being reminded of what is good to be done, what you should avoid and in general, what characteristics a good human being has, and gaining experience through reading the stories and experiences of others. It is believed and practiced that if you are more conscious about what you do during a day for a full month, it will become a habit of you, then you will smile more, you will be kinder to people, you will help those in need of help.
Many people would think that because Iran is a country with the majority of Muslims, travelling to Iran during Ramadan may not be a good idea. It is usually believed that the restaurants and stores will be closed and you won’t be able to drink or eat in public at all during the daylight.
There is a special protocol in Iran during Ramadan. It is true that most of the people would be fasting during Ramadan in Iran, it is also true that most of the restaurants and cafes will be closed. People won’t drink, eat or smoke in public during Ramadan. However, it is not the case with travelers and tourists. Both people and authorities keep an open mind for those who are traveling, and tourists during Ramadan. Fasting is not obligatory for Muslims while they are traveling, and tourists will have a whole new experience if they choose to travel to Iran during Ramadan. The hotel restaurants are all open and ready to service, just like supermarkets and bazaars.
A very pleasant experience can be achieved by visiting mosques for Iftar. You can join people who had fasted from sunrise to sunset and now have gathered at the mosque to say their afternoon prayers and break their fast in company of others. usually the mosques provide Iftar for people who attend and joining them in their Iftar and tasting the delicious food is an experience worth trying. Also, Iranians are known for their hospitality; and another joyful experience while visiting Iran during Ramadan is to attend a family Iftar. You will love the food and the company of people who have been known for their hospitality and kindness for hundreds of years.
Ramadan has a special night life of its own in Iran. It is not wrong to say that the city wakes up not at dawn, but with the sunset. People who have fasted during the day usually spend the night out. All the restaurants, stores and cafes are open till very late hours and you can enjoy a special night out with friends and family. I remember once two Chinese tourists who were visiting Iran during Ramadan went to a mosque by accident after the afternoon prayers. People welcomed them and sat by them, offering them Iftar. It was a very pleasant surprise and a joyful memory of them.
A great example would be Tehran, which is lit up at night more than the usual nights during the year, and alive with people roaming the streets, with restaurants and cafes filled with customers.
Or imagine being in Isfahan, then you could have a wonderful nightlife by the Zayandeh Roud River, walking among the trees, enjoying the cool breeze of the river with its magnificent historical bridges. Every city of Iran will have its own story of a special nightlife during Ramadan, all of them worthy of a visit. With streets and squares decorated with lights, with people hanging out laughing and enjoying the night, the Ramadan nightlife in Iran is a cherry on top to a wonderful visit to Iran.
After the fast is broken at sunset, and people who had not eaten during the day, will say their afternoon prayers and then eat what is called Iftar.
The usual tradition of breaking your fast is by drinking a warm sweet tea. Some people prefer a hot cup of water instead. The iftar tables mostly contain tea, dates, bread, cheese, fresh herbs, halva (a sweet porridge), rice and saffron porridge which is called Shole-Zard in Persian, and many other things.
And this is exactly what you get on the streets. Stores and temporary stands will offer you sweet warm tea with dates and special ingredients of the iftar table I told you about.
There is a special tradition in Iran, and the Muslim people of Iran tend to do it very frequently and this is a scene you will most probably see on the streets during Ramadan. In Persian it is called Nazri. What Nazri is, is very simple. Nazri is a type of food or beverage chosen by the favor of the one who is giving it at two times; it is either when they are wishing for something, like someone’s health, and they give away the chosen food or beverage to people for free, or when they have actually achieved what they had wished for previously. Although it can be given at any time, Ramadan is one of the occasions on which people give Nazri a lot.
However, there is a special confectionary made for Ramadan which itself is one of the attractions of the cities during this month. A sweet called Zolbia Bamieh, you will see long lineups of people outside confectionary stores to buy this special sweet for their iftar table. It is mostly eaten with tea and it is for sure one of the things that you will always look forward to in Iran during Ramadan.
Dinner is usually eaten later at night, a few hours after the iftar is served. However the special iftar table is a bonus to whatever you order in restaurants for your dinner.
People of Iran also eat a special soup called Ash-Reshteh which is made with noodles, beans and herbs and is highly nutritious. In the city of Rasht, the capital of innovative food in Iran, a special food is made during Ramadan which is known among the people of Rasht by the name of Shami Mah Ramezon (the Ramadan cutlet), and by the rest of Iran as Shami Rashti ( the cutlet from Rasht). Made with meat and beans, it is one of the most delicious cutlets, and something you need to taste when you visit Iran during Ramadan. It is found in not only the magnificent and beautiful city of Rasht in the north of Iran by the Caspian Sea, but also in many restaurants throughout Iran.
At dawn, before the sun rises, which is the time when Muslims say their morning prayers and the fasting begins, they set a special table just like the iftar table, which is called sahari. On this table there are many similar things as the iftar table, but also a special meat porridge called Halim, which is in some cities eaten with sugar and in some with salt.
As it was mentioned earlier, Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic Lunar calendar. A difference that the lunar calendar has compared to the other calendars is the rotation. As a result, Ramadan and the other months of this calendar rotate through different seasons. In 2021, Ramadan will start on the 14th of April and last for thirty days.
One thing you should keep in mind is that, in Muslim countries there is a tradition regarding the beginning and ending of Ramadan. It goes like this: some specialists need to check the moon and see its crescent shape to declare the beginning and ending of Ramadan, and the dates given above may differ by one day or two in different Muslim countries.
Ramadan as a religious feast throughout Muslim countries, has a special feeling in the religious cities of Mashhad and Qom in Iran.
Mashhad is the burial place of the 8th Imam of Shi’a, Imam Reza, and the house for the biggest mosque on earth, the Shrine of Imam Reza. Mashhad and the beautiful shrine of Imam Reza is a very beautiful sight to see during Ramadan, all lighted up and with people gathering in the yards of the biggest mosque on earth, and at the same time you will experience a highly spiritual aura through the city.
The holy city of Qom which is the burial place of Imam Reza’s sister, would give you a similar experience which you have had with Mashhad. Hundreds of people gathering in the beautiful yards of the mosque, praying and breaking their fast with the food and iftar setting prepared by the mosque, is a beautiful scenery and a highly spiritual experience.
There are two more special nights in Ramadan for Shia’s, the 19th and the 21st of Ramadan. On the 19th of Ramadan it is believed that the first Imam of Shia’, Imam Ali was stabbed, and on the 21st of Ramadan it is believed that he had passed away. He is loved and highly respected by Shia’s not only because he was the first Imam, but also because he is known as a very good human being, a very devoted Muslim, a knowledgeable man and someone who always helped the poor.
Special ceremonies are held on these nights by shia’s, they say prayers and stay awake the whole night, lighting up candles.
Another explendid experience you can get when you travel to Iran during the holy month of Ramadan is participating in the ceremonies of the Ghadr Night. there you will see hundreds of people gather in groups, all holding a holy book of Quran and lighting up candles, praying together, while being led by clergies who read the beautiful prayers out loud. The simple yet grand atmosphere will be highly spiritual and you can truly see the pure love floating in the air, a love for a man who has taught people how to be good human beings.
Among Muslims, Ramadan is called a month in which all Muslims are invited to a grand feast held by God. It is said by the Prophet of Islam that Ramadan is the month of forgiveness, both by God and by human beings.
And this is what Muslims try to preach during Ramadan. Being nice to each other, helping the poor, not wasting what God has given to us, being conscious about what you say to other people, and being thankful for whatever God has given you.
The humanitarian and spiritual experience of the holy month of Ramadan ends with the greatest prayer or as it is called in Persian Namaz of Muslims after the crescent moon is seen again by the specialists. In the great mosques of every city, you can see hundreds to thousands of people gathering together and standing in lines, reciting the last Namaz of the holy month of Ramadan. A month filled with good deeds and spiritual experiences results in followers having a clear mind and a happy heart. People who have fasted, helped others and been nice to other people gather together and thank God again in huge numbers. That day is called Fetr, and it is one of the greatest feasts of Islam.
Ramadan is both a reminder and a practice. It comes every year to remind us how good we can be toward people, animals, the planet and nature. It gives us an opportunity to practice our limits and the extent to which we are able to endure hardships. It is a chance to forgive and be forgiven, it is a new start on the path of being a better person.