Muslims mark the beginning of a holy month.
Every year, around 2 billion Muslims all over the world fast during the month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, followers of Islam stop eating and drinking from dawn to sunset. So what is Ramadan and why do Muslim fast around this time of the year?
Keep reading to learn more about the facts and secrets of Ramadan.
1. Why is it important?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic Lunar Hijri Calendar. The most important night of Ramadan is “Laylat el-Qadr” which means “the night of power”; it’s believed to be the first night that the prophet Muhammad received revelations of Islam from God. Muslims believe it’s the night in which the Quran was revealed to Muhammad as guidance for all mankind. The Quran is the holy text of Islam. For this reason, Ramadan is considered the holiest month of the year, and Fasting Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
2. When does it start/ end?
On the modern western calendar, there’s no specific date for Ramadan. The beginning of Ramadan depends on the moon. It changes every year. The first day of Ramadan is known as “Hilal” which means “crescent moon”. The arrival of the crescent moon -which usually occurs a day or two after a new moon- marks the beginning of the month of Ramadan.
“Eid al-Fitr” marks the end of Ramadan. This happens when a new crescent moon is sighted, thus concluding the period of fasting. If weather conditions prevent a new crescent moon from being spotted, the fasting concludes after a period of 30 days.
3. What does “Ramadan” mean?
In the Islamic culture, the word Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word “El Ramad” which means intense heat and dryness, or “Rameda” which means sun-baked sand. The word “Ramadan” signifies the intense heat in the stomach that leads to thirst due to the fasting time.
4. What to do?
The most important custom in Ramadan is going without eating or drinking from sunrise till sunset. Before sunrise, Muslims eat a meal called “Suhoor”. They also eat a meal called “Iftar” after sunset. Some people don’t have to fast. These include sick people, children, and pregnant women.
Muslims are supposed to spend more time praying, reading the Quran, and giving to charities. Although it’s not an obligation, some Muslims are encouraged to finish reading the entire Quran during the course of Ramadan.
It is known that fasting hours differ from one country to another according to the geographical location, as the countries near the northern hemisphere have longer fasting hours while fasting hours decrease as we head towards the South Pole.
The shortest fasting hours will be approximately 12 hours for countries such as Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa, and Comoros. While countries with the longest fasting hours will be about 20 hours, for countries such as Norway, Greenland, and Finland.
5. What to eat?
The Iftar meal varies greatly by region. However, in the Middle East, the most common items eaten are roasted chicken, lamb kebabs, grilled food, and various types of rich eastern desserts like Konafa, Basbousa, Baklava, and Tulumba.
This meal is considered a time of fellowship with friends and family. Some Iftar gatherings can become quite large with more than 100 people attending the same meal within the local mosque or center.