What is Ramadan, and why is it important to Muslims?
In the month of Ramadan, adult Muslims of able body and mind will fast for 30 days between dusk and dawn and break their fast ‘Iftar’. The fast includes abstaining from drinking & eating anything, and sexual intimacy until sunset. Many observers also choose to stay away from smoking, taking medicine and chewing gum during the Ramadan period. These fasting periods can range from 11-16 hours per day. Muslims begin with a pre-fast meal called ‘suhur’, and then begin the ‘fajr’, the first prayer of the day. At dusk, Muslims celebrate with the meal known as the ‘iftar’, which means “breaking the fast”, often shared with family and friends.
During Ramadan, it is common to give to charity, otherwise known as Zakt which is a fixed percentage of income a believer is required to give to the poor; the practice is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam.
The holy month gives Muslims a period of spiritual reflection as believers will also avoid negative acts like gossiping, lying, or arguing during the month.
On the first day of Ramadan, it is customary to wish someone a ‘Happy Ramadan’ by saying ‘Ramadan Mubarak’. Alternatively, you can say ‘Ramadan Kareem’ which translates into ‘Have a generous Ramadan’.
Why do Ramadan dates change every year?
Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, which consists of a 12-month year of approximately 354 days, so each lunar month moves 11 days each year.
Do all Muslims have to fast during Ramadan?
Those who are acutely or chronically ill, diabetic, travelling, menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding do not have to fast, as well as children who haven’t hit puberty yet and the elderly.
Otherwise, Muslims who are of good mental health and have reached the age of puberty are expected to fast
What other customs and rituals do Muslims perform during Ramadan?
Aside from fasting and giving a great deal to charity, the month of Ramadan is holy and so many Muslims will say an extra prayer at night called “taraweeh”.
When Ramadan is finished, Muslims will celebrate with ‘Eid al-Fitr’, or the “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast”. During this celebration, children receive gifts from family and friends. Often the breaking of fast will include inviting your neighbours and those less fortunate to share a meal with.