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Imsakiyah of Ramadan has an interesting history and contemporary evolution

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The Imsakiyah of Ramadan is the detailed schedule of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. It includes the time of the five prayers as well as the hours of Iftar and the start of the fasting for every day during Ramadan.

The appellation of the Imsakiyah, is derived from the Arabic equivalent of “fasting”, according to Wassim Afifi, a heritage researcher and editor of the ‘Toraseyat’ website.

Believers abstain from eating, drinking and having marital relations from dawn until sunset.

Before 1798, Egypt was not very aware of the scientific developments in the world. After the French occupation, Egypt benefited from the presence of the French on its territories and learned a lot from them. Although al-Azhar was attacked during the French occupation, the Scientific Center was founded.

The Egyptians learned from the French discovery and scholarship about the Rosetta Stone, more insights into the ancient Egyptian civilization . They also learned the art of modern writing and publishing, and the French initiated the first printing press for them.

Introduction of Imsakiyah

In the era of Muhammad Ali and two years before he passed away, the Imsakiah was introduced to Egypt in Ramadan of year 1262A.H, corresponding to September 1846 A.D.

The Imsakiah was printed in the Bulaq printing press and was known as the Imsakiah of Wali al-Nuam.

It was printed on a yellow decorated paper that is 27cm x17cm. On the top of it, it was written that the first day of Ramadan was Monday and the crescent can be clearly seen in the south for a duration of 35 minutes. A picture of Muhammad Ali Pasha was featured on the Imsakiah.

Wassim added that the Imsakiah included a large table with the hours of prayers and fasting for each day of Ramadan, according to the Arab calendar. The Imsakiah was distributed to all government offices, with an order for all employees not to neglect work and to widely distribute it.

Used for advertising

Between 1920 and 1940, the Imsakiah of Ramadan evolved in various forms and purposes. The first Imsakiah that was used as a way of advertising, was distributed by the Egyptian Renaissance Statue printing press, owned by Mahmoud Khalil Ibrahim in Ramadan 1347 A.H, corresponding to February 1929 A.D. The Imsakiah featured an announcement that the printing press was ready to print all type of books.

Jewish businessman Daoud Adas, took advertisements in the Imsakiah to another level when he printed an Imsakiah for his shops in Ramadan 1364 A.H. corresponding to August 1945 A.D. This Imsakiah was different from the standard ones because it included information about the reasons and virtues of fasting, and below all the information, there was an advertisement for his shop and the available products in it.

Wassim points out that the Imsakiah that was printed by Daoud Adas, was the inspiration for most of the multi-colored Ramadan Imsakiyah.

In the year 1356 A.H, corresponding to November 1937A.D, the Imsakiyah printed by a perfume merchant, included the information about fasting, prayers, Quranic verses, morning and evening recitations, Zakat al-Fitr, and the daily schedule.

He says that the secret behind the spread of the Imsakiah of Daoud Adas, was that it was distributed to passers-by in the streets and worshippers in mosques. He added that it was the start of the evolution of the Imsakiah that kept on evolving year after year.