Ramadan (or Ramzan) is underway. Since Islam follows a lunar calendar, the dates of Ramzan vary from year to year. Throughout the world, the basic pattern of the observance of Ramadan is common to all Muslims. The beginning and ending of the daily fast, prayers, etc. are also common practice.
Islam originated in the desert environment of West Asia and diffused throughout much of the world. This means, the religious practices of Islam have encountered different kinds of environments in different parts of the world. Depending on latitude, altitude, and other factors that influence climate, the cycles of economic production in the primary sector (recall that your textbook talks about primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors) such as agriculture vary from place to place.
This diffusion process leads to interesting geographical patterns – for example, the timing of religious observances. Ramadan is observed during the same dates throughout the world.
When you try to find the connection to the question above, you will also find that the duration of the daily fasting period is also different. In some places, practising Muslims will have to fast for more number of hours than in others. How does this happen? H’mmm…
Muslim football players (or even fans who are participating) attending the World Cup in Brazil, if they chose to fast for Ramadan, will probably have had to fast for longer or shorter periods of time than they would have if they had stayed in their home towns.
One religion, different places, different lengths of time for practising.
Even though the lunar calendar leads to the month of Ramadan occurring at different times during the usually followed solar calendar (January through December), the month of Ramadan is the same throughout the world. However, the exact time of the beginning of the fast and ending of it every day during Ramadan, varies from place to place. The sighting of the moon varies from place to place. Measurement of local time is related to longitude. The length of the day is related to latitude.
In every culture around the world, latitudes and longitudes (particularly latitudes) play a significant role in determining the timings of religious observances. Thus, festivals such as Easter, Pongal etc. have strong geographical connections.
You may have found the latitudes and longitudes chapter in your textbook boring. But if you see the connections of these concepts to life around you, you will find that they – like all geography concepts – are very very interesting.
What you can do:
- The timing of the beginning and ending of the fast for Ramadan varies from place to place. What geographic concept can you link this to? And how?
- Consider the World Cup matches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Now consider practising Muslim fans and players from these places: Madrid, New Delhi, Moscow (Russia), the North Pole, Oslo, Melbourne, Washington DC, Bangalore, London, and the South Pole. Consult your atlas and figure out which of them would fast for the same number of hours, fewer of hours, or more number of hours than in their native places. Explain your answers using geographic concepts that you have studied. (You will have studied these concepts, but may not have applied them to this kind of context.)
- Using the internet, or by talking to a knowledgeable Muslim, make a table of the beginning and ending dates of Ramadan for the past 20 years. Connect the data in that table to the agricultural seasons in India (the rabbi and kharif crops, for example).
- Find out which country has the largest Muslim population in the world. How is that country historically connected to India? (Interesting point: you will find that the names of people in that country have very strong connections to Samskrtam names!)
- Compare that country and modern Saudi Arabia (the birthplace of Islam) and compare their geographies – site (latitude, longitude, soils, climate, physical features) and situation (land, sea and air connections to the rest of the world).
(A version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition on 24 July 2014.)
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