Ramadan, also called ar-Ramadan, Ramadhan-al-Mubarak, or Ramazan, is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar where Muslims all over the world fast for the month. It is based on the lunar calendar and is regarded by Muslims as a holy month and the greatest month.
It is the month when God will forgive those who fulfill all obligations and avoid the forbidden. Ramadan lasts twenty-nine to thirty days, from the sighting of one crescent moon to the next.
To understand how Ramadan became such an essential part of Islam, it is important to trace it back to how Islam started in 610 AD. While meditating in the Hira cave on the outskirts of Mecca, Muhammad was visited by the angel Jibril.
The night Prophet Muhammad first saw the angel Jibril is Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power). The angel revealed the first words of the Qur'an to Muhammad. Even though Muhammad couldn’t read or write, he could perfectly recite the words.
On this night, Allah laid down five core principles: the values of Islam and all Muslims are expected to live by; Shahada, Salat, Zakat, Hajj, and Sawm (the pillar from which Ramadan is derived). These are the five pillars of Islam.
Lessons and Moralities of Ramadan Fasting:
· Discipline: in this month, one must learn to discipline themselves for the sake of Allah. A strict schedule for eating and drinking is followed in the morning and evening. Then that spirit is expected to be maintained even after Ramadan.
· Renewal of Devotion life: This month, more care and attention are paid to daily prayers and special prayers performed at night.
· Renewal of Contact with the Qur’an: In the month of Ramadan, the divine message was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. The Muslim Ummah (nation) pays more attention to the Qur’an during this Holy month. It is the most suitable condition for spiritual and mental communication with the Qur’an.
· Renewal of Identity with the Ummah: the whole Muslim ummah fasts together in the same month. This gives a new sense of togetherness and association.
· A fresh sense of care and Sympathy: it is believed that Ramadan helps one understand the suffering and pains of the poor, the needy and those who are less fortunate.
· Jihad and struggle: it prepares one for hardship and sacrifice. Muslims learn to struggle against the forces of evil in themselves, the society around them, and the world at large.
How to fast
The holy month of Ramadan begins every year with the sighting of the new moon.
Muslims are taught how to fast by the Qur’an (Islamic holy book), and various narrations from Muhammad. It begins with Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) which is taken before the early morning prayer. During the daylight hours, the Muslim is basically expected to shun eating drinking, and sexual intercourse until dusk when he takes an iftar meal.
During the Iftar, it is common to see Muslims gather together to share a meal and distribute treats on the streets.
Other things expected of the Muslims during the days of fasting include piety, maintaining ties with their relatives, helping those who are less fortunate, standing in prayer at night,
Who should fast?
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is mandatory for all Muslims who are mentally and physically fit, must be of the age of puberty and discretion, which usually is about 14 years, to be resident, not to be traveling on a journey of about 50 miles or more. Women should be free from menses (hayd) and post-birth bleeding (nifas).
Also, the insane, children under the age of puberty, and pregnant women are exempted from fasting. Nursing mothers who are breastfeeding their babies are also exempted from the fast.
The chronically ill and the elderly are also exempted from the fast but are expected to feed one poor person each day they do not fast.
Except for the prepubertal and the insane, the other categories are expected to make up for the days they do not fast later.
What are the things that invalidate one’s fasting?
Smoking, consumption of alcohol, food, drink, and sexual intercourse with one’s wife should be avoided from sunrise to sunset each day during the month of fasting. Going against this will invalidate one’s fast.
The intention for fasting should also be pure and in compliance with Allah’s command as fasting for other reasons that invalidate one’s fast.
Ejaculation for other reasons aside from sexual intercourse or wet dreams. Deliberately causing one’s self to vomit also invalidates the fast. In instances like this, the individual is expected under Sharia to observe qada’ (making up for the days one did not fast in Ramadan).
Sexual intercourse, however, requires qada’ and kaffarah (which is to set a slave free). If a slave is unavailable, he must fast for two continuous months or feed 60 persons one average-sized meal.
Eid-al-Fitr, which translates as “festival of the breaking of the fast,” follows the Ramadan fast. Muslims celebrate Eid-Al-Fitr with prayers called “Salat Al Eid.” Muslims will gather in mosques or open spaces and offer two units (Rakat) of prayer to mark the end of Ramadan.
Prayers are followed by a sermon, where the Imam asks for forgiveness, mercy, and peace for every being across the world.
It is a tradition to wear new clothes, eat something sweet such as a date and give money to the poor. There is also a tradition for mosques to host a daily dinner where the poor, rich, students, and all who desire to take a break from cooking for a while.
The Eid-al-Fitr is often designated a public holiday in Muslim majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, however Muslims in other countries also find a way to carry out celebrations among their circle of friends or in the mosques.
Celebrations are often different in different parts of the world as different cultures try to mark the religious celebration in their own cultural way
Eid-al-Fitr is one of the major celebrations for Muslims worldwide, others are Eid-al-Adha and Jummah.
Ramadan is one of the biggest celebrations in Islam. All Muslims fit enough to fast should participate in promoting the relationship between Allah and the individual. This is expected to strengthen and better improve the person than they previously were following the fast.
It is also now a trend for many people who are non-muslims to take part in this tradition for the health benefits they derive from fasting and to move close to their Muslim friends.
Muslims are also advised to keep all the good attitudes they acquired during the days of Ramadan and make sure they maintain the close relationship they developed with God.
Ramadan is not the only fascinating thing about Islam, check this quiz to find out other facts about the religion.