Friday, August 27, 2010

The drum beaters of Ramadan

Ramadan – the Islamic month of fasting comes every year since the fasting was made an obligatory ritual by the Almighty Allah for all Muslims. During this month, all Muslims living anywhere in the world abstain themselves from eating, drinking and courting between pre-dawn to dusk. The basic aim of fasting is to inculcate humility and patience. Since the Islamic calendar is lunar, the month keeps moving backwards, approximately ten days each year, from bitter colds of December to scorching summers in June. This rotation ensures fasting by the Muslims under all severities of the weather so that the rich could fathom the hardships the poor undergo in severe weather conditions. The month of Ramadan is also considered sacred since the Muslims’ holy book Quran was revealed by the God Almighty to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) during this month.

The three important rituals of the month of Ramadan are the Sehur or Sehri (the obligatory pre-dawn meal), the Iftar (the breaking of the fast at sunset) and the Traveh prayers (the 20 additional rakats in addition to the last prayer of the day late at night).

Since in the early days when there were no clocks or watches or sirens, people found it difficult to get up in the last hours of the night for Sehur. And here come the drum beaters of Ramadan, the people of my post. In order to facilitate people in getting up at the right time, individuals would voluntarily roam into the streets beating drums to awaken the intending fasters. Now that other means are available, the practice still continues in many parts as it is associated with the month since its very start and the volunteers do not want to part with the practice.

I remember these drum beaters since my childhood. These volunteers in singles or two would beat a drum or an emptied ghee tin and keep yelling, ”Utho roza daro, sehri ka waqt ho gaya hai – Get up o yeh would be fasters, its time for Sehri.” Some even would sing hamds and naats (recitations to the glory of the Almighty and the Prophet) with a harmonium and a drum. And some of them were really very good and melodious. Then on Eid day (the day of rejoice and festivities after the end of the Ramadan), these people would come again and ask for alms.

Now that people get up on alarms and sirens, this tradition is dying down, specially in the posh areas. But in old parts of the cities and villages, the practice still continues. Now living in far from the older party of the city, I really miss those good days and those volunteers who made us get up in the early hours of the dawn and keep fasts.

Related reading:
Ramadan (Wikipedia)
Festivals (Pakistanpaedia)