Muslims welcome holy month of Ramadan

A large number of pilgrims travel to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah for Umrah during the holy month of Ramadan.
Updated 26 May 2017

Muslims welcome holy month of Ramadan

RIYADH: Millions of Muslims worldwide will mark the start of Ramadan, a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts, most probably from Saturday.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity and performing the Haj pilgrimage.
In Saudi Arabia the holy month has its own significance, during which many pilgrims from around the world travel to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah for Umrah.
Expatriates of different nationalities, whose number exceeds 10 million in the Kingdom, celebrate Ramadan in their own traditions and styles.
“It is interesting to see the charity work done by Saudis during Ramadan,” said Nabil Al-Bakr, a worker at the local Islamic Propagation Center in Riyadh. The center and other charities distributed about 1 million iftar packs during Ramadan last year, he added.
Muslims who fast during Ramadan abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month. A single sip of water or a puff of a cigarette is enough to invalidate the fast.
Ramadan is an exercise in self-restraint, self-control and self-discipline. Muslims are encouraged to avoid gossip, arguments and fighting.
Just before the fast, Muslims have a pre-dawn meal called suhoor to get them through the day.
Families and friends often come together for iftar, breaking the fast at dusk, typically with dates.
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, right after the month of Shaban, marks the start of Ramadan, the time when the doors of hell are firmly sealed and the doors to heaven are wide open, as mentioned in the Qur’an.
It is a time of intense prayer and profound devotion to God. The Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan, according to the holy book. Those who are ill, traveling, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or menstruating are exempt from Ramadan obligations.
During the month, office and school hours are reduced in Saudi Arabia. Most shopping malls, restaurants and markets are open until 3 or 4 a.m. It is said that days literally turn into nights during this time.
Encouraged by the Qur’an, people become more merciful, helpful and kind to each other, partaking in practices such making donations and helping and feeding the less fortunate.
Across the Muslim world, mosques and charities set up tents and tables for the public, and distribute food during iftar.
At the end of Ramadan, family and friends celebrate with parties.
It is said that even the poor become rich during this month due to the kindness shown by the more fortunate.

How Saudi Arabia stood by Pakistan after nuclear tests

Updated 4 min 47 sec ago

How Saudi Arabia stood by Pakistan after nuclear tests

  • At this difficult moment in Pakistan’s history, Mahmood said, the king’s “depth of brotherly feeling” was touching

ISLAMABAD: Khalid Mahmood was in Jeddah on the afternoon of May 28, 1998, waiting to receive a delegation, when news broke that Pakistan had conducted five underground nuclear tests under then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Mahmood, who was Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia at the time, sat in his hotel room watching TV reports of the tests and awaiting instructions on his next move from the Foreign Ministry.

By that evening, he told Arab News, he decided to break protocol and make contact with the Royal Court, requesting an urgent meeting with then-King Fahd the following day, a non-working Friday.

To Mahmood’s surprise, the king agreed. By then, the ambassador had also received instructions from Islamabad: A diplomatically isolated Pakistan was to seek the support of the king and crown prince.

Mahmood denied the widely held opinion that Pakistani officials had already informed Riyadh of their intent to test. “It’s not true that I conveyed to them (the Saudis) that we were going to have this nuclear test,” he said.

Mahmood described how, with “great fanfare and (motorcycle) escorts,” he was taken to the palace, where the king apologized for not being able to get up to greet him on account of a bad knee. “It was so very gracious of him,” Mahmood said. “Nobody expects the king to get up and receive (diplomats).”

After listening to Islamabad’s reasons for the surprise nuclear tests, Mahmood said the king was brief in his response. 

“He said we are against what you have done because we are a member of the non-proliferation treaty. But we know and understand why you have done it. And we will support you more than you expect of us.”

After Pakistan tested the weapons, the US imposed harsh sanctions, including cutting off trade credits, private bank loans and support for loans not based on relief from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Arms sales and military aid to Pakistan were already cut off under separate legislation in 1990, when it was determined that Pakistan had nuclear weapons.

At this difficult moment in Pakistan’s history, Mahmood said, the king’s “depth of brotherly feeling” was touching.

The following day, then-Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz held a longer meeting, officially reiterating the Kingdom’s support for Pakistan, with assurances in the form of a four-year deferred oil financing facility worth roughly $3.4 billion. This gave Pakistan the confidence to go ahead and conduct another nuclear test on May 30, Mahmood said.

A few weeks later, the envoy was called in again for a meeting with the crown prince, who had been receiving persistent calls from US President Bill Clinton asking Riyadh to reconsider its position on Pakistan.

But the crown prince refused to comply. “Our relations with Pakistan are of a different nature,” Mahmood quoted the crown prince as having told the Americans.