Ramazan Fasting In Sri Lanka: My Recollections As A Sri Lankan Teenage Boy

Assalamu Alaikum,

Islam Sri Lanka Muslims

Sri Lanka Muslims leaving a Colombo mosque after Friday jummah prayers

I think you’ll like to hear how the month of Ramazan fasting is observed in the Indian subcontinent. So I thought I’ll share how I used to observe Ramazan fasting in Sri Lanka when I was a Sri Lankan Muslim teenage boy.

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 the year.

muslim prayers mosque

A Muslim mosque in Colombo city, Sri lanka

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 exhaustive sports. 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.

Sri Lanka Muslim mosque

Another Sri Lanka Muslim mosque in Colombo

Here in Sri Lanka only men go to the mosque 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. and 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 Ramadan 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.

Muslim refugee camp in Sri LankaSadly all is not merry in my island nation.

Sri Lanka is just recovering after a bloody 20 year long seperatist war with the LTTE alias Tamil Tigers or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The Muslims from the north and eastern parts of the country are finding Ramazan particularly difficult this year due to devastations caused by the war as well as the slow recovery from the 2004 Asian Tsunami.

The Muslim majority areas of Sri Lanka in the eastern province were the worst hit areas in Sri Lanka from the Tsunami. More than 40,000 Sri Lankans lost their lives from the tsunami of which more than 15,000 were Sri Lankan Muslims in addition to other devastations. Even 6 years after the tsunami, rehabilitation in Muslim parts of Sri Lanka has been very slow and yet to be complete. So many thousands of Sri Lankan Muslims are still displaced by the long war and tsunami and will be observing their Ramazan fasting from refugee camps living in squalid conditions…

This is how Sri Lanka Muslims observe the month of Ramazan fasting.  I would like to hear about how Ramazan fasting is around the world. Please leave a comment and share how is Ramazan fasting in your country. May Allah be pleased with you (Jazakumullahu haira)

This entry was posted in Articles, India, Islam, Islamic World, Life, Moors, Musings, Muslims, Pakistan, Ramadan Fasting, Refugees, Religion, South Asia, Sri Lanka, sunni, Thoughts, Ummah. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Ramazan Fasting In Sri Lanka: My Recollections As A Sri Lankan Teenage Boy

  1. gary says:

    I am a christain. The God I serve does not require me to worship and bow in prayer at certain times. However, it is good to be active in prayer. I believe in the Father (God) -son (Jesus) -& the Holy Spirit.
    Basically, I believe there is an awesome God that knows all, sees all, and loves us uncondtionally. He at one time sent Jesus Christ to die for mankind, when we finally understand – we ask him to come into our lives and begin t0 live as jkesus Jesus taugh while on earth. He died for my sins, he sit on the right side of God the father. He watches out for me and considers me a brother. The holy spirit lives in me and helps direct my paths. I believe in the Bible and everything it says. I make mistakes daily, but my heavenly father forgives and forgets.
    I do not think Allah and God is the same person. I really feel for the conditions in Sri Lanka land may God bless you, your family, and your country. Amen

  2. Sadhique says:

    Dear Gary,

    God is not a person. The Holy Qur’an says the following:

    “Allâh, there is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but He, the Ever Living, Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber overtakes Him not, nor sleep. Whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth belongs to Him. Who is there that will intercede with Him, save by His leave? He knows their future and their past; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge (of the things) except of such (things) as He Himself pleases (to tell). His knowledge and sovereignty extends over the heavens and the earth and the care of them both tires Him not. He is the Supreme, the Great” (2:255).

    “There is nothing like Him (He is beyond all comparison), and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing”. (42:11)

    “God has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him: For then each god would have taken of that which he created and some of them would have risen up over others.” (23:91)

  3. Assalamualaikum
    I am Indonesian Muslim. nice to read your story, to know how ramadhan in other part of this world. I have a blog, a special blog for Masjid around the world (http://bujangmasjid.blogspot.com), now I try to write an article about masjid & Islam in Sri Lanka. but all my blog in Bahasa Indonesia (Melayu / Indonesian language). Feel free to stop by & drop a line of word. May Allah always bless you & your family. ameen.


  4. rashid khan says:

    I am from new delhi india though i basically belong to uttar pradesh (state of india) badaun district

    Fasting is farz and it gives us so many good things like unity , feel of hunger , control on our nifs , an amazing way to give up smoking , drinking alcohol , drugs……………bad habits …etc

    Salah five times a day , The way imam sahab recites the ayat so beautiful and sometimes imam sahab cries while salah or dua
    People play QUR’ANIC AYAT and nasheed

    We indian muslims enjoy ramadhan with peace and love
    all across the cities and india , call for prey (Adhan) , at magrib time chips , pakaude ,meat ,biryani…….etc most famous dishes all over ramadhan

    The month of ramadhan is so beautiful that every muslim loves this month a lot and wait for this month the whole year

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