I am sharing this article to help us understand Ramadan and what it is all about...
An Idiot's Guide to Ramadan
By Adam Yosef, site user
Lots of frequently asked questions answered by Adam, about the most important event in the Islamic calendar.
Ramadan, What does this mean?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It's when Muslims all over the world spend 30 days observing fast and bettering themselves in principles of faith.
Observing fast, or fasting, is when a person abstains (or keeps away) from eating and drinking.
The reason Muslims fast is to discipline their body and mind. The absence of food and drink and other pleasures provides a perfect opportunity to concentrate on prayer and worship. Not having the luxuries of life to hand makes it easier to reflect on life and be grateful for what we do have. Muslims use this month to start afresh and give their life a new direction?
What kind of direction?
Many Muslims use Ramadan to make resolutions, similar to New Year's resolutions. It is a time when they decide how they want to live their life for the next year and try their very best to adhere to their new commitments.
Yes, like greater commitment to God and faith. Ramadan is a time when Muslims can introduce practices into their life to reflect their religious identity. A lot of Muslims have a desire to pray more and learn more about Islam. Others wish to be better and nicer people while some want to learn Qur'anic Arabic to better their understanding of the Holy Book. For these people, Ramadan is the best opportunity to begin this grand affair with something so personal and spiritually enlightening.
Can't they do it at any other time... why Ramadan?
Ramadan is a blessed month ordained by God. It is the month in which Satanand his minions are said to be locked away in Hell to prevent them from misleading, deceiving and whispering in the ears of believers.
This doesn't mean that sin and bad deeds will completely disappear for a month but it
will mean that if bad deeds are done and sins committed, they will be from the hearts of people alone and the devil cannot be blamed. However, God has promised the people that the reward for good deeds and actions during the holy month will be multiplied greater than usual and this encourages many to increase their level of worship and prayer. Although, this also applies to sins and so any naughty actions only invite greater punishment than usual.
Ramadan does make it easier for Muslims to observe their faith though, largely because all Muslims are following the same pattern and so they are always offering each other moral support and encouraging each other to do better. Ramadan brings people much closer than normal as they forgive each other for any misdemeanours of the past, forge new and positive relationships and treat each other with greater respect.
What else do Muslims do in Ramadan?
Well, aside from fasting, they pray more. Muslims should pray five times a day anyway and go to the mosque but many find this difficult so Ramadan helps them to fulfill these practices and in many cases, stick to them long after Ramadan is over. Muslims also read the Qur'an more and understand and share their religious teachings. They also learn to abstain from bad habits and minor and major sins and hopefully continue with the effort when Ramadan is over too.
When does the fast begin and end?
The fast begins just before dawn when Muslims eat a light meal (suhoor) and confirm their intention to fast for the day. The fast ends at sunset when the call to prayer (Adhan) is announced. Eating a date or some water are the recommended and most popular methods of concluding the fast. The time when the fast ends is known as 'Iftar'.
Why do some people stuff themselves when the fast is over?
Those who are fasting should deprive themselves of the meals they would normally have during the times of fast but they shouldn't really eat all they missed once the fast is over as this defeats the whole objective of the fast. When breaking the fast (of having breakfast, I guess), they should simply have the meal they would on any other day. It is permissible to have a more elaborate feast if one if hosting a 'Iftar' meal for guests as this is considered a good and noble act, in which there is divine reward.
But don't you have to think about the poor?
Yes, Ramadan is also about thinking about the less fortunate and needy although in a lesser degree to improving one's own character over the blessed month. Not eating and drinking does encourage Muslims do recognise how the poverty-stricken and starving people in the world must bear the burden of daily life and this is why, in Ramadan, many Muslims donate more to charities and why mosques collect more so that people right across the world can have better life and those who donate can gain greater regard for well intentioned actions.
Enlightenment is a must during Ramadhan
So who has to fast, is it everyone?
Not everyone. Young children are encouraged to learn about fasting but fasting is only obligatory (a must) for anyone beyond adolescence (or over the age of 10 according to some scholars). Muslims who have medical conditions that prevent or make fasting difficult, those who are not of sound mind or are going through a pregnancy or menstruation cycle as well as those who are too young or too old do not have to fast. In some circumstances, individuals who cannot fast for any number of reasons may make up the fast at a later date
When does the month begin?
Islamic months follow the lunar calendar, in the same tradition as the Jewish community. Therefore, in relation to the solar, or Gregorian, calendar, Islamic and Jewish months will annually differ by around 11 to 12 days. This means Islamic events will always fall roughly around the same time in the Islamic calendar but always on a different date in the mainstream solar calendar. This year, Ramadan begins in August depending on the sighting of the moon, and will end approximately 30 days after, sometime in September when Muslims conclude the month with festivities and celebrate Eid.
Eid, or 'Id, means 'festival' or 'celebration' in Arabic and the festival
following Ramadan is known as 'Eid al-Fitr'.
This article was first published in 2005.