SUNSET THURSDAY, JULY 14:The big news is—Ramadan is coming! If you want to know more about this month of fasting for a billion Muslims around the world, check out The Beauty of Ramadan, a guide to Ramadan traditions.
All Muslims fast during Ramadan. But, tonight’s observance of Lailat al Bara’a (or Mid-Sha’ban with a variety of spellings common on both terms) is far more complex and diverse. Not all Muslims spend this night in prayer with related fasting; among the millions of Muslims who do observe it, the spiritual meaning differs widely. Some mark the evening on different dates.
Basically, this observance falls just a couple of weeks before the start of Ramadan—specifically on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Muslim lunar calendar, called Sha’aban.
According to Shia Muslims, this is the date when Imam al-Madhi, the 12th and final Shia imam, was born. (Wikipedia has details.) Devotees often spend the entire night in prayer and worship.
Millions of Sunnis also spend Mid-Sha’ban eve in worship in prayer, but they believe this to be the “night of deliverance,” or the eve when Allah prepares destinies for the coming year. It’s a very auspicious night for extra devotions. (Read more at Sunnah.org.)
Still other Muslims don’t observe this at all, disputing the origins of the observance.
In some parts of India, Muslims make Halwa or Zarda sweets and give them to neighbors and the less fortunate on the eve of Mid-Sha’ban. Check out a recipe for Zarda sweet rice at food.com!
Of course, Muslim families around the world know their community’s traditional approach to this evening and they’re ready for tonight. If you’re a non-Muslim reader, simply remember that it’s a seasonal reminder: The great fast of Ramadan is coming soon and already millions of families are preparing.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.