Muslim artist illustrates Ramadan traditions from around the world

To coincide with the holy month of Ramadan, illustrator Natasha Ahmed teamed up with cross-border payments company WorldRemit to depict some of the various traditions of celebrating Ramadan around the world.

Ramadan is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the Muslim calendar and marks a huge celebration of faith, culture and history. 

It is a month of fasting and abstaining from things considered to be impure for the mind and body.

Those who partake abstain from food, drink and impure thoughts between the hours of sunrise (Fajr) and sunset, allowing them instead to focus on prayer and connecting with Allah.

Fasting allows the individual to understand the pain and suffering of millions around the world who live their lives in poverty and famine.

At the close of the month, Zakat (obligatory act of charity) donations during Ramadan are made and then Eid al-Fitr is celebrated with loved ones.

With over one billion people observing Ramadan across the globe, different cultures have introduced their traditions as part of the celebrations. 

Along with some of Natasha’s illustrations, these include:

Chaand Raat – Pakistan and India 

Natasha says the night before Eid-al-Fitr is one “filled with excitement” and that women decorate their hands with henna.

Translated to ‘Night of the Moon’, Chaand Raat is a night of celebration that signifies the end of Ramadan with the first sighting of the new moon. A vibrant tradition in South Asian countries including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, Chaand Raat celebrates the beginning of the new month and the festival of Eid al-Fitr. 

Zakat – Nigeria 

The third pillar of Islam, Zakat signifies the importance of charity as a way of purifying one’s wealth and soul. Such charitable acts are prevalent throughout Ramadan and although this practice is not exclusive to Nigeria, it has a really positive impact in the African country, which has one of the biggest Muslim communities in the world. 

Chawk Bazar – Bangladesh 

Natasha says she wanted to show “the business and colour” in the streets of the Chawk Bazar as well as the “hussle and bussle”.

When it is time for Iftar each day, Muslims come together to break their fast. In Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, there is a gathering of street food vendors on Chawk Bazar, which has become the go-to destination for Muslims in the area looking to celebrate the end of their daily fast with their families. Chawk Bazar has been around for over 400 years and remains a cultural hub for Bangladeshis to this day.  

Cleansing ritual (Padusan) – Indonesia 

Padusan is a purifying tradition in which Muslim women in Indonesia bathe in springs to cleanse their bodies before the month of Ramadan begins. Springs are believed to possess great spiritual significance and are a vital part of purification before the holy month starts. 

Henna decorations – Somalia 

Natasha says during Ramadan many women in Somalia will decorate their hands with henna patterns and she wanted to depict that in this illustration.

Whilst this is seen throughout the Muslim community around the world, a popular tradition among Somali women is to come together to celebrate Eid through decorating their hands with beautiful henna artwork. Henna has been around for centuries and women tend to wear these intricate designs from their hands to their elbows in celebration of Eid, as well as at other notable events such as weddings.   

Moon watchers mark Eid-al-Fitr – South Africa 

Although the sighting of the new moon to signify both the start and the end of Ramadan is observed throughout the whole Islamic community, in South Africa Muslims wait for Maan Kykers (moon watchers) to confirm the sighting of the new moon, bringing an end to the holy month and starting the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr. 

Drummers announce Suhoor – Turkey 

In Turkey, in a tradition dating back to the Ottoman era, Suhoor is ushered in by drummers decked in traditional attire. Drummers fill the streets around the country waking residents and celebrating the start of a new day throughout the holy month.  

Lighting Fanous – Egypt  

Lighting Fanous (colourful lanterns) in celebration of Ramadan is a tradition with its roots in Egypt but has since expanded to other countries. These lanterns, which are often made from a combination of metal and glass and are crafted with care, lace the streets throughout the month of Ramadan, with their bright colours making them one of the most beautiful traditions in the world.  

Ritual of the Neffar– Morocco 

Natasha said she made sure to use “warm jewel tones in the colour palette of the drawing” as it shows “the vibrance of Morocco’s buildings and architecture”.

A popular tradition in Morocco, among other countries, is the morning routine of the local town Neffar (Crier) walking down the street at sunrise blowing a horn to wake people up and signify Suhoor (the morning meal prior to the start of fasting). This starts each new day within the month of Ramadan.   

Mheibes – Iraq 

Mheibes is a game played throughout Iraq during Ramadan where large groups of men team up to play a game where they must find a hidden ring amongst the group. The tradition is to sing ‘Baghdadi songs’ whilst playing this game, with both teams having up to 50 players each as a fun activity designed to bring the community together throughout Ramadan.  

Cannons Fire – Lebanon 

This is a tradition that is thought to have originated in Egypt over 200 years ago, but remains a popular tradition in a lot of Muslim countries including Bangladesh, the UAE and Lebanon. The Cannon is fired daily throughout the month of Ramadan to signify Iftar, which is the meal that marks the end of fasting for that day.   

Natasha said: “Ramadan is a joyous occasion and the opportunity to celebrate years of Muslim culture. It is enjoyed by millions worldwide and it’s fantastic to see so many different traditions practiced, with everyone’s experience being slightly different. 

“This artwork really brings the diversity and inclusivity of Ramadan to life and fills me with pride when visualising how Muslims from all corners of the world come together in harmony, whilst also upholding and respecting traditions that may be more unique to them.” 

Natasha (pictured) says the artwork fills her with “pride”.

A spokesperson from WorldRemit added: “Ramadan is such a special time of year for the Islamic community and allows everyone to celebrate their faith with family and friends closer to home, whilst also allowing them to connect to others further afield. 

“As a global organisation, WorldRemit has always had a deep connection with the Muslim community, from our diverse staff with whom we work daily, to customers around the world who use our services to make fast and safe international payments.

“It’s amazing to learn about the different Ramadan traditions practiced by Muslims around the world. These pieces of art illustrate them beautifully, really capturing what it means to everyone practicing Islam.” 

You can learn more about Natasha’s work on her Instagram and WorldRemit on their website.

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