Explaining The Holy Month of Ramadan
By Sahar Ali
Volume 2 Issue 5
March 28, 2022
Image provided by Shutterstock
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is the holy month of fasting. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar signaling the beginning and end of Ramadan, which depends on the appearance of the crescent moon. In 2022, Ramadan will begin on April 2nd and end on May 1st; however, these dates may vary slightly across different countries due to the moon’s appearance.
In Islam, it is believed that during Ramadan on Laylat al-Qadr, also known as the “Night of Power,” God revealed the holy book for Muslims, known as the Quran, to Prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe that during Ramadan, individuals who fast, pray, and have faithful intentions will have all their past sins forgiven by God.
What Muslims do during Ramadan
The holy month of Ramadan is a time for Muslims to practice self-restraint, spiritual reflections, and growth. Ramadan allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate. Sawm, one of the five pillars of Islam, is practiced during Ramadan. Not only meaning the obligation to fast, but sawm also means refraining from food, drinking, unkind thoughts, and immoral behaviors.
Before Muslims begin their fast for the day, they have a pre-dawn meal known as suhur (this word may vary between languages). Fajar, the morning prayer, signals to Muslims that their fast for the day has started. Maghrib, the prayer during sunset, allows Muslims to break their fast. Muslims break their fast with the meal known as iftar, which is usually “broken” with eating dates, following Prophet Muhammad’s actions. The fasting hours change with seasons, with summer fasts being longer (16+ hours) than winter fasts (8+ hours). Additional prayers, also known as tarawih, are offered at night and are generally performed in mosques. During tarawih, the entire Quran may be recited throughout Ramadan. Zakat (charity), one of the five pillars of Islam, is obligatory during Ramadan. All Muslims must give 2.5% of all their assets to charity each year.
How sawm is invalidated and reasons why individuals don’t have to fast
You have probably heard of Muslims fasting, but have you ever heard that fasts can sometimes become invalid? Yes, you heard that right! A Muslim’s fast can become invalid if they eat or drink on purpose. If an individual forgets that they’re fasting and accidentally eats or drinks, their fast is still valid because they did not mean to consume anything.
If a Muslim is ill or traveling during Ramadan, they are not obligated to fast. Muslim women who are pregnant or nursing, the weak and old, travelers on long journeys, children, and the mentally ill are excused from fasting. Menstruating women cannot fast, but it is not because they are considered impure. Instead, it is because it becomes harder to fast when a woman is menstruating, which is why God has made this time easier for women. Healthy adults and older children must fast, but if they miss any of the reasons listed above, they will have to make the missing fasts up after Ramadan is over.
The end of Ramadan
Eid al-Fitr’s “Feast of Fast-Breaking” celebrations mark the end of Ramadan. It is one of the two major holidays in the Islamic calendar, the second one being Eid al-Adha. This holiday marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are expected to make at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to. The pilgrimage is known as hajj. During Eid al-Fitr, people wear new clothes, delicious food is made, gifts are given, the graves of deceased family members are visited, people pray in mosques, and gather with their families.