Ramadan is a special time for Muslims across the world, including Indonesia with its greatest muslim population. Falling in the tenth month of Shawwal, the Islamic calendar, it was at this time of the year when the Angel Gibril revealed to the Prophet Mohammed Allah’s will and so were written the very first verses of the Holy Qur'an. The month of Ramadan is spent fasting from dawn to dusk everyday - it is a time to introspect, reflect and reinforce the bond between the Almighty and the faithful.
During the month of Ramadhan, Muslims must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, marital relations or getting angry during the daylight hours. In addition, those fasting are supposed to refrain from bad habits - lying, getting angry, using bad language as well as to be more diligent in prayer and give to charities. It is believe that fasting heightens spirituality and develops self-control. The fast begins in the morning just before sunrise, at Imsak, and is broken at maghrib which falls at sunset. Fasting during the month of Ramadhan is one of the five pillars of Islam and an obligation for devout Muslims.
How does that important event influence daily lives of foreigners in Indonesia? Well, that would be a summary of the most important differences:
- The overall pace of life overall slows down. Things take longer to get accomplished both at home and at the office. It would be best to schedule difficult tasks before or after Ramadhan to make sure they are executed effectively and with no delays.
- Your live-in household staff and hosting family members will arise very early in the morning to prepare their pre-dawn meal. This along with the morning prayers can greatly influence your sleep.
- Your colleagues and friends may need extra nap mid-morning or in the afternoon to keep pace with their altered sleeping and eating schedules. An increased level of patience and tolerance is required when dealing with workers who are fasting.
- Food vendors and some restaurants close during the day and some restaurants stop serving alcohol. You may feel uncomfortable eating or drinking before your fasting staff/friends. It would be considerate to refrain from eating or drinking in front of others that are fasting. Food prices rise as Lebaran nears.
- Night entertainment centers during the beginning and end of Ramadhan and shortens their hours throughout the month.
- If you are waken up early in the morning by the enthusiastic young people parading through the neighborhood do not tell them to be quiet as this would be extremely offensive, just quietly endure.
- Indonesians will want to take one to two weeks off to visit their family in the village. Hence it's difficult to schedule travel in Indonesia near the end of Ramadhan due to the annual exodus of 7+ million city dwellers to their hometowns.
- Traffic jams from the afternoon rush hour start earlier as many office workers are allowed to leave earlier than usual to get home in time to break the fast with family and friends.
- You'll notice a big increase in beggars at traffic lights as the poor flock into the city from the villages at this traditional time of heightened charity giving.
- Noise from the local mosques will increase in volume and frequency.
Idul Fitri, more commonly referred to in Indonesia as Lebaran, is the celebration that comes at the end of the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadhan. The Arabic meaning of Idul Fitri is “becoming holy again”.
There are numerous festivals ongoing and the country shows its spiritual and religious face in the most interesting way. If approached properly, Ramadhan is a great cultural that will greatly enhance your time spent in Indonesia. Enjoy!