Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, this year it is estimated to begin on the 23rd of April and predicted to end on the 23rd of May. Every year the start date varies and is decided at the sighting of the moon.
Muslims spend the entire month fasting from sunrise to sunset, this means they cannot eat or drink anything between these hours. Fasting (Sawm in arabic), is the third pillar of Islam and compulsory for all Muslims – although there are some exceptions to this. Ramadan is a time for Muslims to purify themselves spiritually and focus on God and build a stronger relationship with him. Fasting isn’t only withholding food but also abstaining from using bad language, smoking and all other behaviours which are viewed as forbidden for Muslims. This month provides Muslims with the time to make positive changes to their life and get into habits which strengthen their spiritual belief and practice. Fasts are broken at sunset with a special prayer.
Ramadan is often a time of sharing between friends, family and neighbours who come together to open fasts, share food and make happy memories. Friends and family come together to open their fasts and share food together. They also increase the level of charity work by making donations to charities, feeding the less fortunate people and acts of kindness. Through the experience of fasting one gains a greater depth of understanding for those who have little or no food, it helps to enhance empathy. Muslim communities make an effort to support those around them, they may do this by hosting events such as community iftaar (the meal at sunset where fasts are broken).
Not everyone fasts during Ramadan, there are people who are exempt from fasting. This includes the elderly, children, pregnant women and those who are too unwell to fast. Ramadan ends with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, when the new moon is sighted. The poor also receive gifts from their local communities via mosques, from donations that were made throughout Ramadan.
Muslims often put henna (mehndi) on the night before Eid when the moon is sighted and wear beautiful, vibrant clothes that are new. Eid is filled with delicious homemade food, and exchanging gifts from friends and family, people wish each other a happy Eid by saying “Eid Mubarak” and hugging each other. Eid can last for a varying amount of days as some people celebrate it for up to 3 days, others opt for one day only.
Ramadan Kareem (this means, may Ramadan be generous to you ) to all of those fasting, I hope the month is a great journey of spiritual development and you set out to achieve all you hope. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and nourish yourself adequately before the start of each fast!
– Anmbrin Amjid –