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For the next 30 days, Tarannum Mansouri will arise at 3 a.m. at her home in Vadodara, India, being careful not to awaken her toddler son. She will bathe and then join the other women in her family in the kitchen to prepare the morning meal.
A filling breakfast of homemade bread, vegetables, perhaps a chicken curry and fruit will be washed down with tea by 4:30 a.m., before the break of day. So begins the holy month of Ramadan for more than 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, when Muslims believe the holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel in the seventh century. It is a month of fasting, prayer and reflection for Muslims. It is a time when practicing Muslims refrain from all food, drink, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset.
“It is a holy month,” says Hibo Wardere of London. A month “that you are dedicating to God.” The last 10 days of Ramadan are considered the most holy. “That is when the seven steps to heaven are open,” Wardere adds. The most important is Laylat al-Qadr, or the “Night of Power,” believed to be the holiest night of the year.
“It is a night everybody stays awake” and prays, she says. “It means all your prayers will be heard, it means all your sins will be forgiven, it means you will get what you dreamed of.” Islam takes into account that not everyone is able or willing to fast during Ramadan. Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are exempt from fasting.
Others who are old or ill can also forego fasting, but they must feed one poor person for each day of a missed fast. The practice is called fidya and how much it costs depends on where one lives.
In the U.S., “it comes out to $10 per day or $300 for the month,” says Minhaj Hassan of the nonprofit charity Islamic Relief USA. In Britain, Islamic Relief UK has set the daily rate of fidya at 5 pounds or 150 pounds for the month.
On the other hand, “kaffarah is paid by individuals who miss a fast for no good reason,” says Hassan. “The amount is $600 a day, or feeding 60 people in need (the Arabic term is miskeen).” In Britain, the price is 300 pounds per day. One can also atone for a missed or deliberately broken fast by fasting for 60 straight days.
Observance in non-Muslim countries
Fasting during Ramadan is “a million times more difficult” in a non-Muslim country “than back home,” says Wardere, who is from Somalia but has lived in London for most of her life.
In the U.S., an estimated 3.2 million Muslims will fast during Ramadan, a small number compared to the 327 million population. By contrast, a 2013 Pew Research Center study shows 94% of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa fast for the month.
”The practice of fasting in Muslim nations is presumably much more common during Ramadan, since there are likely to be more practicing Muslims,” says Hassan. “And fasting is a part of the daily culture during this month. Thus, if people you know are fasting, you’re likely to do the same.”
Most Muslim countries also make it easier for people to fast. Across the Middle East, Ramadan must be observed in public. Which means, even non-Muslims must refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in public. In most of these countries, religious police patrol the streets and violators are usually punished. Most cafes, restaurants and clubs are closed during the day although some hotels serve food in screened-in areas or through room service.
Most public offices and schools are closed and private businesses are encouraged to cut back their hours to accommodate the fasters.
“Being part of an environment or community where fasting is encouraged and accommodated can increase the likelihood of people fasting successfully,” Hassan says. “In some Muslim countries, accommodations are provided for fasting, which may not always be the case in the West” or in other non-Muslim nations.
“Observing Ramadan as a minority has its challenges. But it is not significant enough to make it impossible to fast,” says Naeem Baig of the Islamic Circle of North America. He says it is made easier because “people from other faiths generally are respectful and supportive towards their Muslim colleagues or neighbors.”
Mansouri, in India, will have to accommodate her fasting while spending weekdays at her job as a teacher in a Hindu school. She says she will try to keep herself busy so as not to think of food when teachers and children take their lunch break.
Similarly, Baig says, “We encourage Muslim parents to inform the schools their children attend and let the teachers know that their children will not be going for lunch break. In most public schools, Muslim children of fasting age can go to the library during lunch and are exempt from PE (physical education).”
Organizations such as the nonprofit Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding work with businesses to help them accommodate the needs of those observing Ramadan.
“Muslim employees observing Ramadan may be fasting during this period. Some may request scheduling accommodations and your company may find that more employees require space for prayer during this time,” writes the group’s deputy CEO, Mark Fowler, on its website.
He encourages his clients to avail themselves to the group’s fact sheet regarding scheduling, dietary restriction, and greetings during Ramadan.
Muslims in the West, Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, and much of the Middle East, including Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, will begin observing Ramadan on Monday. But millions in India, Pakistan and Iran will likely be marking the start of the lunar month on Tuesday, based on moon sightings there.
Ramadan will end on June 3 or June 4, depending on when it started. After 30 days, Ramadan ends with a three-day celebration known as Eid al-Fitr, when families and friends get together, exchange gifts and feast. (VOA)
The new variant of the coronavirus Omicron is a variant of "concern" not "despair," Brazil's Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said, adding that the country's health system is prepared for an eventual new Covid-19 wave.
"It is not a variant of despair because we have health authorities committed to providing quality care to our population," the Minister said.
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A Brazilian citizen coming from South Africa was quarantined in the south American country after testing positive for Covid-19, since it was not known which variant had infected him, Xinhua news agency reported.
The first case of the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa and reported to the World Health Organization on November 24.
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The new variant has a number of previously unseen mutations, mainly in the spike protein the virus uses to invade human cells.
Over the weekend, Queiroga asked Brazilians to remain calm, saying that measures against the new variant are the same, and the main weapon against Covid-19 is vaccination.
Brazil had accumulated 22,080,906 Covid-19 cases and 614,278 deaths from the virus as of Sunday.
Keywords : new variant, covid, Omicron, Brazil, Health Minister, coronavirus, mutation, health system, country, vaccination.
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Amit Rai Jain, a Baghpat-based businessman, has found 16 coins made of silver and copper which have a bull and a horseman engraved on them.
He found the coins from a mound, known locally as the 'Katha mound' in Khekhra, close to the Delhi-Saharanpur highway, on Sunday.
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Jain told reporters that some of the coins are from the late 12th century AD, which is the era of Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan.
"I keep frequenting the area, which is rich in archaeological finds. This time, it revealed something considered fascinating in Indian numismatics. The coins which I found belong to a series of Rajput rulers who remained dominant in the region comprising Rajasthan, Haryana, and the western Gangetic plains from the eighth century to 12th century AD," he said.
Jain, is a member of the Culture and History Association, an organisation comprising historians from western Uttar Pradesh.
K.K. Sharma, head of the department of history, Multanimal Modi College, Modinagar, confirmed the antiquity of the coins.
Picture of some ancient coinsUnsplash
"This is an interesting find as the area remained with the Rajput kings for a couple of centuries. Horse and bull inscriptions on coins were quite common in those days. Horses used to be the primary vehicle of soldiers during battles and their depiction on coins is not a surprise. In fact, close to two dozen rulers between the seventh and 17th centuries used horses in some form or the other on their coins," he said.
Baghpat is well-known for the discovery of interesting historical artifacts, the most sensational being three chariots unearthed during the Archaeological Survey of India excavation held in Sinauli in June 2018, which marked the 'first-ever' physical evidence of Bronze Age chariots in India.
In 2006, Sinauli had revealed Harappan-era burial grounds where several discoveries were made such as that of painted grey ware pottery, skeletons, bronze swords, and copper vessels.
Keywords : ancient, coins, silver, copper, archaeological, kings, discovery, historical, artifacts, Uttar Pradesh, India, Rajput.
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With an aim to examine the wide-ranging narratives and the very definitions of the art of sculpture, Palette Art Gallery's forthcoming exhibition, 18 Dimensions - is a show dedicated to sculptures underlining the important works by 18 contemporary artists, who have made a significant impact on the Indian and Global art landscape.
Bringing a seductive edge to the visual arts, an element of pleasure to one's life and working environment, the exhibit is an effort to showcase a broad scope of contemporary sculpture from the abstract and the minimal to the popular, making socio-political commentary that is deeply contemplative and thought-provoking.
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The show reflects on a large number of materials and methods from casting to the modes of assemblage as well as minimalism, conceptualism making visible the process of making in most of the works.
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Featuring over 18 artists, the intention is to present a range and variety of sculptural expressions and encourage viewer participation and physical engagement with artworks once again, as the city opens up to mobility from the studios of Arunkumar HG, Ashiesh Shah, Gigi Scaria, G. R. Iranna, L. N. Tallur, Narayan Biswas, Mrinalini Mukherjee, Manjunath Kamath, Pooja Iranna, Himmat Shah, Jagannath Panda, Rajesh Ram, Riyas Komu, Sangam Vankhade, Sumedh R, Subodh Gupta, Sudarshan Shetty, Valay Shende, Vibha Galhotra and Vipul Kumar, the exhibition studies their involvement with the influences probing the limits and possibilities inherent in a sculpture's inescapable three-dimensional physicality.
One of the highlights of the show includes a selection of the rare hemp works by artist Mrinalini Mukherjee. Known for her distinctly contemporary style and use of dyed and woven hemp fibre, she worked with an unconventional material in the world of sculpting. Her four-decade-long career was an exemplar of a practice dedicated to formulating a language that was a mix of abstraction and figuration.
Keywords : art gallery, sculpture, exhibition, Palette Art Gallery, Bikaner House, New Delhi, contemporary, abstract, materials, conceptualism.
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