A mosque in Colombo
The Sri Lankan Muslims form a small
minority community of around 1.5 to 2 million people or around 9%
of Sri Lanka’s population. As such Ramazan fasting, the
fourth pillar of Islam, is a time eagerly awaited by all Muslims,
young and old alike as a time for spiritual enhancement with a
relaxed atmosphere in contrast to the routine life of the rest of
In a typical Sri Lankan Muslim
house, we get up before dawn at about 3 or 4 a.m. to have a meal,
usually of rice and curry before beginning the fast. Afterwards we
make our ‘Neeyath’ -the resolution where we declare that
‘we’d observe the mandatory fast of that day’. By this time it’ll
be time up for the Dawn prayers (Fagr/Subahu), which marks
the beginning of the fasting period of the day.
It would still be pitch dark outside but men would go to the
mosque for the Dawn (Fagr) prayers and women would pray at
home. Thereafter, we would try to get some sleep. For the office
workers or businessmen it would mean a small nap and they’ll leave
for work as daylight breaks. Since Sri Lanka is a Buddhist
country, the working Muslims don’t have privileges such as shorter
work hours like in Arab countries and have to work the normal
routine. Though difficult in the first few days of Ramazan,
it’s not that bad as days go on.
Those at home would sleep till around 9-10 a.m in the morning.
Thereafter, women getup and start household chores, recite the
Quran (Koran), and do some sewing work, etc. and later on in the
evening prepare some snacks or short-eats for breaking fast.
Most Muslim kids here go to Muslim
schools, which give holidays for Ramazan. So for boys and
girls Ramazan is a time of joy and leisure where they form
groups and play indoor games like Carom whole day long avoiding
By evening the working crowd would
have returned home and everyone would be eagerly waiting to hear
the call for the Evening (Maghrib) prayers to break fast.
In a Muslim home for breaking fast, in addition to dried date
fruits (and those who can afford, have snacks or short-eats), we
always drink a bowl of “Kangi”. Kangi is a kind of
gruel/soup prepared from rice, which is usually made and
distributed by the Sri Lankan mosques to Muslim households. After
breaking fast and praying Maghrib prayers we’d recite the
Quran for about an hour or so until the Night (Esha) prayers.
Here in Sri Lanka only men go to the mosques for prayers and
Muslim women pray at home. But in the Ramazan fasting
period, mosques arrange for a special location or segregate and
cover part of the mosque for women to come and pray the Night (Esha)
prayers and the special Ramazan ‘Taraweeh’ prayers which
takes about an hour. By the time, night prayers are over it would
be past 9 p.m.
Every two or tree days, we’d have a
special ‘Bayan’ (sermon) from a visiting speaker or someone
of our community on Islam and related issues. Returning home after
prayers women prepare the next days dawn meal and then we all
retire to bed with the happy thoughts in anticipation of another
day of fasting.
Since Sri Lanka is a tropical island with roughly equal daylight
and nighttime throughout the year in whichever season Ramazan
happens to fall we have roughly around 13 hours of fasting.
Alhamdullilah, I am happy to say most Sri Lankan Muslims fast and
a majority of them attend prayers at mosques especially during the
Ramazan period. In addition many rich Muslims distribute
their Zakat money among the poor in this month. Lot of
sadakah and charity work are also done during this month.
We conclude Ramazan with the Id’ul Fitr festival
day, on which we go to the mosque in the morning just after
sunrise wearing new cloths and pray and then listen to a sermon
and afterwards give Salaams and hugs to all our village
folks. The festival day in Sri Lanka is also a day of family
unions where extended families living in different areas come to
their parental houses and celebrate the festival with a grand
launch. Undoubtedly the happiest on this special day are the kids
as they receive ‘Festival money’ as gifts from parents and
relatives, which fill their heart with joy.
The writer is a
Software Engineer and blogs at 1muslimnation.
The above article, a
recollections of the writer's Ramadan memories
as a Sri Lankan
teen-age boy, appeared on his blog in 2010.