The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is on, throughout which the devoted observe roza or quick from dawn to sundown. The quick entails abstinence from consuming, ingesting, smoking and sexual relations to attain better “taqwa”, or consciousness of God.
Ramadan is noticed to mark the month during which the primary verses of the Quran, Islam’s holy e book, have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad greater than 1,400 years in the past.
In the course of the month, Muslims get up earlier than the solar rises to have a pre-fasting meal, or suhoor, and break the quick at sundown with an iftar – adopted by prayers that may go on late into the evening.
The observe has given start to a number of traditions the world over on waking up the devoted for the pre-dawn suhoor, such because the final remaining singers in Jordan.
South Asia, residence to just about one-third of the world’s Muslim inhabitants, additionally has some attention-grabbing – although dying – traditions.
Listed below are a couple of:
The Sahar Khans of Kashmir
At round 2.30 am, Tariq Ahmed Sheikh, an 18-year-old from Koil in Indian-administered Kashmir’s Pulwama district, walks out of his residence alongside together with his father Showkat, 51, as they set out at midnight alleys and bylanes of their village.
Holding a drum slung from his neck, with two drumsticks in hand, he shouts “waqt-e-sahar” (“time for suhoor”), beating his drum because the father-son duo get up the residents in his neighbourhood.
After strolling for about 5km (2.2 miles) and protecting about 200 households, they return residence after an hour to have their suhoor.
Tariq and Showkat are generally known as Sahar Khan within the Muslim-majority Himalayan area.
Showkat, who makes a residing doing handbook labour work for the remainder of the yr, has been working as a Sahar Khan throughout Ramadan for greater than twenty years. He inherited the work from his father.
For the previous three years, he has been accompanying his son, educating him the craft in order that he can carry the custom ahead.
Though alarm clocks and smartphones have affected their work and their earnings have come down, Showkat says they do that “noble work” as a result of it provides them “sawab” (reward). Apart from, they wish to preserve the custom of Sahar Khan alive.
“Even when some individuals don’t need us to disturb them and we earn little out of this work now, we’ll proceed to do that work each Ramadan,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
On the finish of the holy month, the Sahar Khans go to the residents within the neighbourhoods that they had served and settle for no matter individuals give for his or her work. It’s principally rice and money, ranging between 5-10 thousand rupees ($68-136).
Nazir Ahmed Parray, a 48-year-old Sahar Khan from northern Kashmir’s Hajin village, says his father labored as one for about 70 years earlier than passing on the mantle to him and his youthful brother.
“Earlier than his demise, my father suggested us to proceed this custom even when we don’t every earn a lot out of it,” says Parray. “He suggested us to see it as a divine work whose reward is within the hereafter.”
Parray, who has been a Sahar Khan for 30 years, says individuals don’t wait for his or her arrival with the form of anticipation they displayed earlier.
“Though some individuals don’t need us to disturb them at midnight, there are others who need us to maintain the custom alive and even name us to return to their areas throughout Ramadan,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
Parray says his younger nephews accompany him now as he teaches them correctly beat the drums and wake individuals up for suhoor.
Parray has additionally witnessed the turbulent Nineteen Nineties when an armed rise up towards Indian rule started within the disputed area, claimed by India and Pakistan in entirety whereas ruling over elements of it.
Because the battle intensified, Parray remembers the restrictions imposed by the native administration in the course of the nights. Army crackdowns and raids at properties have been widespread.
There have been additionally situations when Sahar Khans like him can be stopped by patrolling troopers and questioned about their motion at midnight.
“Typically we needed to inform the closest military camp about our midnight motion forward of Ramadan in order that they might not cease us from doing our work,” Parray instructed Al Jazeera.
After New Delhi scrapped the particular standing of Indian-administered Kashmir on August 5, 2019, a months-long shutdown and communications blockade additionally restricted their motion. That was rapidly adopted by one other lengthy lockdown as a result of coronavirus pandemic.
However the Sahar Khans say the restrictions haven’t stopped them from persevering with their conventional work.
Famous Kashmiri poet and cultural activist Zareef Ahmad Zareef says the custom of Sahar Khan got here to the Kashmir area from Central Asia. When he was a toddler, he mentioned there was just one Sahar Khan, Ghulam Mohammad Baengi, for total Srinagar, the area’s principal metropolis.
Zareef mentioned Baengi would cowl lengthy distances on foot, waking up individuals by blowing a coil-shaped, hole horn of a sheep which generated a loud noise.
“He would additionally recite verses in reward of Prophet Muhammad as he walked on the empty streets of Srinagar at midnight. Folks, principally youngsters, would await his noise and typically come out on the streets and peer out by way of their home windows to catch his glimpse,” says Zareef.
Regardless of individuals now counting on alarm clocks and smartphones, Zareef says no fashionable gadget can exchange the Sahar Khans.
“Even at this time now we have alarm bells and newest smartphones however we nonetheless see and listen to Sahar Khans at sehri (suhoor) time yearly throughout Ramazan,” he says. “Ramadan is incomplete with out Sahar Khans in Kashmir. They enrich the expertise of this holy month.”
The city criers of Outdated Delhi
Fared Ahmed, 46, awaits a miracle.
Like different residents of India’s capital New Delhi, he’s tense in regards to the all too sudden rise in COVID-19 circumstances. The pandemic has marred Ramadan celebrations, with the town of greater than 20 million residents now below lockdown.
“The custom of waking up individuals for sehri will quickly turn into historical past if the scenario continues,” Ahmed instructed Al Jazeera.
He’s among the many few remaining “munaadis” (city criers) who roam the town’s streets, calling out the religious to get up for sehri.
As not too long ago because the Nineteen Eighties, the older elements of Delhi – seat of the Mughal emperors and now extra popularly generally known as Outdated Delhi – had quite a few munaadis, with residents providing them money and delicacies.
However fashionable devices similar to alarm clocks and smartphones have made their companies redundant in lots of areas.
Nevertheless, a couple of nonetheless volunteer selflessly. It was in 2015 when Ahmed’s ustad (an honorific title for an knowledgeable in classical singing and music) fell sick. “He desired that I work as a munaadi. Ever since, unfailingly, I’ve carried out the duty,” he says.
Carrying a kurta-pajama and skullcap, Ahmed frequents the empty streets of Lal Kuan Bazaar, Farash Khana and Rakabganj localities, cautious of not intruding into one other munaadi’s zone.
He recites verses from the Quran and different conventional sources. Within the preliminary days of Ramadan, the narrations are about welcoming the holy month; later, the “alvida” (farewell) hymns.
“We functioned out of respect for the clerics or the spiritually-inclined amongst household and associates. A few of us went out in teams. However for now, all this has stalled,” Ahmed rues.
Having misplaced his job with a real-estate developer not too long ago, Ahmed has held the title of a munaadi with reverence.
Laik Khan, a 72-year-old resident of Teliwara in Outdated Delhi, is one other munaadi.
“Final yr, the lockdown marred all festivities. We have been hopeful this yr, however expectations of the standard soiree have once more crashed,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
Beginning his day at 2.30 am, Khan has been selling the munaadi custom for over 20 years. Holding a torch and a stick, he alerts individuals about suhoor in localities similar to Sis Ganj and Kishan Ganj.
“Being a fruit vendor, my voice was match to awaken individuals,” he laughs.
Conversant in the neighbourhood, he provides them a shout-out. Some acknowledge, pay him money and provide delicacies. Just a few request him to name out the names of their youngsters, who return the favour with pleasure and glee.
“However these days, individuals have begun to dissuade me from addressing them – some on account of privateness points, others say it disturbs the sleep of the aged and youngsters, who will not be fasting,” he says.
Khan says he doesn’t anticipate a lot financial acquire. “Our era labored for sawab (religious reward).”
The fading Qasida custom in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, a bunch of volunteers sing, starting at round 2 am, as they move by the slim alleys of the older elements of the town to get up the “rozedaars” (those that quick).
The songs are from the Qasida style of Urdu poetry and fashioned an integral a part of Ramadan. The singers was once patronised by the influential households of various neighbourhoods.
The older quarters of Dhaka had a wealthy custom of Qasida singers courting from the Mughal period, however the custom is slowly fading away.
Rashed Al Amin, a leather-based businessman from Khajidewan space of Outdated Dhaka, says Qasida is a practice he grew up with throughout Ramadan.
“I can nonetheless memorise the strains of among the one of many Qasida songs,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
Rashed’s maternal grandfather Nannu Sardar was one of many neighbourhood leaders.
“In my childhood, I used to see that earlier than the beginning of the month of Ramadan, a bunch of Qasida singers would go to our residence to get my grandfather’s blessing. There was a tradition of patronising these singers.”
He says that with the emergence of satellite tv for pc TV, web and social media, many individuals, particularly the kids, barely sleep earlier than sehri.
“Earlier, it was not like that. After the taraweeh prayers (evening prayers throughout Ramadan), individuals would fall asleep,” he mentioned.
To wake them up, Qasida singers would sing soulful songs, principally drawn from well-known Urdu poets from India and Pakistan.
“Starting within the Nineteen Eighties, a few of these singers additionally began writing songs in Bangla. However Qasida songs are principally in Urdu,” Rashed mentioned.
Azim Bakhsh, chairman of Dhaka Kendra, a cultural organisation within the metropolis, says the high-rise flats are additionally an element behind the slowly fading custom.
“Qasida songs have been applicable in a close-knit neighbourhood with two or three-storied buildings on either side of a lane. Now these homes have been changed by high-rises and joint households have turn into nuclear. So the Qasida tradition has been changed by TVs and web,” he says.
Apart from, Bakhsh mentioned since Qasida songs are principally in Urdu, many individuals suppose it’s a non-Bengali custom.
“But it surely’s not true. Urdu in Dhaka shouldn’t be like Urdu in Pakistan. It’s colloquial Urdu with some intrusion of Bangla phrases into it.”
Singers similar to Shamsher Rahman, who lives in Lalbagh space of Dhaka, proceed to bear the mantle of the Qasida custom.
Rahman took over after his instructor, Ustad Jumman Miah, died in 2011 after 60 years of being a Qasida singer.
“I realized Qasida songs from my Ustad. I’ve additionally carried out with him at completely different neighbourhoods in Outdated Dhaka,” Rahman instructed Al Jazeera.
“Folks gave us presents and cash. Apart from, we used to get bakhshish (financial presents) on the finish of Ramadan or on the day of Eid al-Fitr.”
Rahman is optimistic the Qasida custom is not going to be fully misplaced. “There are nonetheless few teams practising the custom. I consider it can survive the take a look at of time.”