KARACHI - As the clock is ticking for Muslims worldwide to welcome the holy fasting month, Pakistan's various religious and literary organizations have kicked off Istaqbal-e-Ramadan (Welcome Ramadan) programs across the South Asian Muslim state to teach religious and social aspects of fasting to the faithful, particularly the newly reverts.
Istaqbal-e-Ramadan campaign has become a permanent feature of our yearly activities for last one decade, which normally begins three weeks before the fall of holy month, Mohammad Hussein Mehanti, the Karachi chief of Jammat-e-Islami, one the country's two mainstream religious parties told OnIslam.net.
The party, and its sister organizations plan to hold hundreds of lectures, study circles, and other awareness related programs before and during Ramadan.
There are two main objectives of this campaign, Mehanti, a chartered accountant by profession said.
First, to bring the common and illiterate people to these programs, and teach them about the importance and benefits of fasting - here and hereafter- in the light of Quran and Sunnah, Mehanti said.
Second, to remind ourselves and those who regularly fast , but need to rejuvenate the spirit and knowledge about different aspects of fasting, particularly what is prohibited and what is required by Allah from us during Ramadan, he maintained.
This time, Mehanti said, the newly reverts who embraced Islam in recent years, will also be part of these programs.
In fact, they would be the most important part of these programs because they need to learn much about Ramadan as many of them are going to fast for the first time in their life.
Hundreds of Hindus and Christians have embraced Islam in different parts of the country during last one year, especially belonging to schedule (lower) cast of Hindus who mainly reside in southern deserted parts of Sindh province.
Jammat-e-Islami's relief wing, Al-Khidmat Foundation, the largest NGO in Pakistan, has been carrying out various relief and development projects in Thar Desert, where almost 50 per cent of the population is Hindu.
Zam-Zam water project carried out by Al-Khidmat Foundation, under which 400 wells have been dug in different parts of Thar, has made a major difference in the lives of Hindus, who otherwise had to travel miles to fetch potable water.
Hundreds of local Hindus, mainly from lower cast, during last couple of years due to relief activities and closeness with Islamic charities like Al-Khidmat Foundation, and Jammat-ud-Dawa'h's Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.
Similarly, scores of Christians have reverted to Islam in different parts of Punjab, the country's most populous and richest province, during last year.
Christians and Hindus make up 3 and 2 per cent of the total 180 million population of this only nuclear Muslim state respectively.
Working Women Trust (WWT), an Islamic NGO that has been working to address the problems faced by working women in Pakistan, too, has planned several welcome Ramadan programs in different parts of the city, where religious scholars - male and female- apprise the women about different aspects of fasting.
Usually, the religious parties focus on men, whether it comes to religion or society. They somehow forget women, which are equally important, and in some cases most important segment of society, Abida Farheen, the president of WWT told OnIslam.net.
That is why, we have chalked out several welcome Ramadan programs only for women, particularly for working women, she said.
The WWT programs focus on two main issues.
First, we want to teach the women about importance of fasting, and their duties with the help of literature and lectures delivered by the religious scholars.
But the main focus of our programs would be to teach and prepare the working women for Ramadan, in which they will have to battle against time, Abida said referring to the tight schedule during the holy month.
Working women, she observes, not only have to prepare Sehri and Iftaar for the housemates, but have to attend their offices and work places as well.
With the help of experts, we would teach them (working women) about time management. How to manage their tight schedule in away, whereby it does not affect their mental and physical health, she maintained.
A new part of the welcome Ramadan programs, this year, is the inclusion of health experts.
Ramadan, this year, is going to fall in sizzling weather, when temperatures are likely to remain between 40 to 45 degrees Celsius, Dr Abdul Malik, a senior physician, who is among various doctors who are lecturing the participants about different health aspects in welcome Ramadan programs.
Although, some TV channels do air health related programs during Ramadan, however, it is normally a brief discussion rather than a practical-based lecture.
We are teaching the participants how to save as much as energy in the stifling heat-wave as an acute shortage of water in the body would certainly affect their health, Dr Malik said
Use of spicy food at Sehri may make them more thirsty during fasting as compared to use to light and less spicy food, he maintained.
Similarly, he said, excessive use of fried stuff affects the liver, and it needs to restricted during Ramadan because people usually take it lightly, which is not good.These kinds of small tips can help people avoid health hazards during Ramadan, when eating for many has become a passion, Dr Malik said in a lighter vein.