Holiest among all the traditions of Islam, Ramadan is 30 solemn days of prayer and fasting marked with a period of charity and ended in festivity. It is observed during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a lunar calendar composed of 12 months used by Muslims internationally to date events related to the faith. With it, the five pillars of Islam, observed during Ramadan, is maintained in synchronicity by all Muslim communities worldwide.
The five pillars as mentioned above are Shahadah, Salat, Sawm, Hajj, and Zakat al-Fitr. The first pillar, Shahadah, is a simple statement of the core Islamic belief, uttered in Arabic: la ilaha illallah Muhammadun rasulu-llah translated as "Theres no god but God; Muhammad is Gods messenger." Not only is this a statement that takes a higher importance during Ramadan, it is also a declaration crucial to the process of conversion to Islam.
The second, Salat, is composed of five prayers that must be performed daily at the proper times, preferably in a mosque. The third, Hajj, is the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, a task that must be performed at least once in the entire life of a Muslim.
The fourth, Sawm, is the obligatory ritual fasting done from dawn to dusk for the whole duration of the Ramadan. The fifth pillar, Zakat al-Fitr, is Sawms traditional end, wherein wealthier Muslims reach down to the less fortunate and offer their help through alms.
Each of these pillars symbolizes the loving and sacrificial nature of Islamic faith, and Zakat al-Fitr is the one that ties all of them together before the day of Eid.
Zakat al-Fitr, now internationally known as Fitrana, is a period in the last days of the Sawm when the financially able reach out to those who have less, through charity or Ramadan donation. Each Muslim must give a preset minimum or a fraction of their income to appointed institutions or go on foot and do it personally to the person or community he or she deems to be in need of help. This task is appointed to all Muslims, regardless of age and financial standing, though guardians should pay for dependents who are not yet able.
Fitrana is not a tradition that displays the contrast between the wealthy and the poor, though for some it appears to be so. The Fitranas purest aim is to unite everyone in all walks of life on the final days of the Ramadan. One of its many purposes is to promote brotherhood and healthy dependence among all Muslims, as all had been, or will be, poor at some point in their lives. Another purpose is to help the less fortunate celebrate the feast held on the day of Eid.
Such a loving tradition allows for all Muslims to band together as a community. Muslims with the highest financial standing are obliged to pay the Fitrana in coin, but like the least fortunate, they can also perform good deeds for those with less. And after the arduous tasks of fasting and charity, all Muslims will be rewarded with a healthier spirit, as promised on the day of the revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad.
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