Ramadan is upon us and the whole Middle East is celebrating. In fact, odds are that no matter where you live, you’ll probably know someone who is fasting. Most people, however, don’t know much about this holy month. Here are a few pieces of info to give you a basic idea about the month and its significance.
Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Because this calendar is based on the moon,there is no set solar date, with Ramadan moving back 10 – 11 days every year. This means that some years Ramadan will be in the summer, and some will be in the winter. Ramadan is considered a holy month because Muslims believe that it is the month when the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohamed by God. There are also specific instructions in the Quran mentioning to Muslims to fast during the holy month.
As a result, Muslims who are able to do so fast from dawn to sunset, abstainig from food, drink, sexual intercourse, and smoking, often also refraining from behavior that is against the teaching of Islam, such as swearing and dressing inappropriately. Muslisms who are exempt from fasting are the young (before puberty), permanently ill people who are physically unable to fast, those taking medication, pregnant or nursing women, menstruating women, and those traveling. These people may either make up the days throughout the next year, or pay the equivalent to feeding someone else as compensation.
Fasting is meant to purify the mind, body, and soul. Muslims gain self control, an increased attachment and awareness of family and the important things in life, and compassion for those who are less fortunate. Physically, fasting also helps lower blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and obesity. While Muslims don’t fast specifically for these health benefits, they are considered as an added bonus.
At the end of each day, Muslims gather together to have a meal called Iftar (breakfast), which usually begind with breaking the fast with a date and a glass of milk, praying, then continuing with the full meal. Muslims can now eat until dawn of the next day. In fact, many also enjoy a pre-dawn meal/snack called sohour, which helps give energy for the day.
So that’s a brief explanation of what Ramadan is, so that you understand a bit more if you happen to be visiting a Muslim country during this month.
Have you had any experiences with Ramadan before?