So you may have heard of Ramadan, which is the month annually that Muslims across the entire world fast for a period of 30 days. But it isn’t as simple as that, and so below are answers to common questions non – Muslims may have about it all!
When does it all happen?
Ramadan happens once a year for 30 days, during the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar (hence why it varies yearly, and it depends on the sighting of the moon), in order to commemorate the first revelation of the Quraan to the Prophet Muhammad. During these days, fasting is maintained from dawn until sunset. At the end of the thirty days, it is Eid, a day of celebration and joy and Muslims’ main religious holiday/festival.
What happens in Ramadan?
During Ramadan, as mentioned above, the main thing is to abstain from eating and drinking from dawn till sunset, as well as abstaining from sexual relations, smoking or forms of medication. (unless essential, of course!) However, the idea of
reforming and becoming a better person comes by the fact that this is a month of great emphasis on the five pillars of Islam. Therefore, people make greater efforts in being aware of their actions, and gaining a sense of self discipline for actions which they would disregard as the norm in day to day life. The fast is broken upon sunset, after the call of prayer for Maghrib (4th prayer of the day) and may typically be done with dates and a glass of water, as this is what the Prophet would break his fast with. The breaking of the fast is known as the ‘Iftar’, and many Mosques provide this for those breaking their fast immediately after the hearing of the call to prayer, as well as communities and families joining together to break their fast – this demonstrates the strong sense of cohesion between people of all different races and walks of life, who come together through the same intention of becoming closer to God, and fasting.
In addition, things that people do throughout the month are:
Zakat – this is known as charity, as a Muslim is required, providing they have the means to do so, to give 2.5% of their wealth to charity, though some may choose to give more during the holy month of Ramadan.
Recitation of the Quraan – Many Muslims make the intention to complete the recitation of the entire Quraan throughout the month, with some completing it even two or three times, and some even more, considering it is the month we believe the Quraan was revealed to the Prophet by God.
Taraweeh Prayers – These are extra, optional prayers after the final prayer (Esha), which most Muslims do as a sign of extra commitment and a time to repent.
Some Muslims may also choose to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Prophet’s birthplace, during this time.
Why do you do it?
Well for a start, it’s not as simple as just fasting for the sake of God. It’s a way in which we spiritually cleanse our soul of impurities and sin. It’s also a strong way in becoming closer to God, as the month symbolizes the first revelation of the Quraan to the Prophet Muhammad. However, alongside these main factors, it also gives us a first hand experience on the suffering of those in the poorer parts of the world, who do not have privileges like we may have, or even the means to break a fast, and so through fasting, alongside charity donations throughout the month, we become aware of just how fortunate we really are.
Many also believe it has health benefits too, though this is only in addition to the sole purpose in becoming closer to your spiritual sense, as well as fulfilling your purpose as a giving and stronger being, with qualities developed such as self discipline, empathy, generosity and a sense of spirituality, alongside important duties as a Muslim being committed to, such as Zakat (charity giving) and Saum (prayer), which are part of the five pillars of Islam and emphasized hugely in Ramadan. Furthermore, it allows us to build the key traits mentioned such as generosity, self discipline and empathy for the less fortunate. You abstain from acts which may seem casual in day to day life but are in actual fact morally wrong (eg. swearing, backbiting) and there is a strong focus to rid of these in Ramadan, in hope you can reflect on your character as a whole and become a better person at the end of the month, and continue after it.
Who has to fast?
It becomes compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy and sane, and have no disabilities or illnesses, as well as pregnant/menstruating woman being exempt. Many children often, inspired by others and despite not being required to, may try and keep a few before reaching puberty. Often, it gives them a sense of being a part of it all!
Some Muslims with medical conditions may insist on fasting to satisfy their spiritual needs, although it is not recommended as it can have a severe toll on their health. Some, who take minor medication may adjust their medication to be taken during the non fasting hours, however for more serious conditions, fasting is not required and many make up for these outside of the month of Ramadan. In addition, some, (usually those who do not have a definite recovery) may pay to feed a poor family for the month of Ramadan instead, as is recommended.
If you are not Muslim, hopefully this post gave you some sort of insight on how the month of Ramadan will progress Feel completely free to ask any questions you may have
I would also like to take this opportunity to wish all Muslims across the globe a warm, spiritual and fulfilling Ramadan this year It’s beautiful how Muslims of all different races come together for the same cause and I truly hope you get what you want out of this time
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