It’s the first week of Ramadan, it’s the holy month for Muslims around the world, the month of fasting.
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of the religion of Islam and one of the highest forms of Islamic worship. Abstinence from earthly pleasures and curbing evil intentions and desires is regarded as an act of obedience and submission to God as well as an atonement for sins, errors, and mistakes.
Called Ramadan – Muslims fast during this holy month from the moment when it first starts to get light until sunset. Muslims fast as an act of faith and worship towards Allah, seeking to suppress their desires and increase their spiritual piety. Fasting together as a worldwide community – Ummah – affirms the brotherhood and equality of man before Allah.
The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle. The month of Ramadan is the ninth month and begins with a combination of the sighting of the new moon and astronomical calculations. The exact time of Ramadan sometimes varies from place to place as some rely heavily on the moon sightings while others depend on science. An Imam (Muslim holy man) will declare the exact time of Ramadan just prior to its commencement. The fasting period ends upon the sighting of the next new moon, which occurs after 29 or 30 days. The lunar cycle changes each year.
Fasting helps one to experience how a hungry person feels and what it is like to have an empty stomach. It teaches one to share the sufferings of the less fortunate. Muslims believe that fasting leads one to appreciate the bounties of Allah, which are usually taken for granted – until they are missed!
Throughout the day Muslims are encouraged to go out of their way to help the needy, both financially and emotionally. Some believe that a reward earned during this month is multiplied 70 times and more. For this reason, Ramadan is also known as the month of charity and generosity.
To a Muslim, fasting not only means abstaining from food, but also refraining from all vice and evils committed consciously or unconsciously. It is believed that if one volunteers to refrain from lawful foods and sex, they will be in a better position to avoid unlawful things and acts during the rest of the year.
The fast is broken at sunset. The Prophet Muhammad recommended breaking the fast with dates and water and wait. Muslims are urged to invite others to break the fast with them. These gatherings are called Iftar parties.
Just after breaking the fast, and before dinner, Muslims offer the fourth of the five daily prayers, which is called the Maghrib prayer. After dinner, Muslims go to their houses of worship, called Mosques, to offer the Isha prayer, which is the last of the five daily prayers. The day ends with a special voluntary prayer, the Taraweeh, offered by the congregation reciting the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam.
The Last 10 Days of Ramadan
The last ten days of Ramadan are considered highly blessed, especially the 27th night which is also called the ‘Night of Power’, or the ‘Night of Destiny’. It is believed that on this night the prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an. For many Muslims, this period is marked by a heightened spiritual intensity and they may spend these nights praying and reciting the Qur’an.
After 30 days of fasting, the end of the month of Ramadan is observed with a day of celebration, called Eid-ul-Fitr. On this day, Muslims gather in one place to offer a prayer of thanks. It is traditional to wear new clothes, visit friends and relatives, exchange gifts, eat delicious dishes prepared for this occasion, and wait patiently for the next year.
…to be continued (Benefits of Ramadan on Thursday!)