What is Ramadan? Most westerners wonder why Muslims around the world take this month seriously. I will explain about this month and each day what Muslims do until the end. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims start fasting according to the vision of the crescent moon. It is considered the holiest month of the year because the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad according to Islamic belief. There are many parts of Ramadan that people practice which are:
- Fasting (Sawm)
- Donations (Zakat)
- Prayer (Taraweeh)
- Reading the Quran (recitation)
- Prayer the night of power. (Laylat Al-Qadr)
Fasting is refraining from food, water, or any kind of nutrition that goes inside the body. But in this month, fasting has more meaning than just not eating. It is more about discipline, patience, feeling with the poor and less fortunate, devotion and dedication to God, refraining from all the bad temptations, sexual relations, a cleanse for the body and soul, no smoking, no sinful behaviors, or false speech (gossip, curse, lying, insulting, and fighting. With that being said, fasting is not only physical, it is also spiritual. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset which could be very challenging due to long hours at work, weather conditions and geographical location. These actions are supposed to redirect your heart and soul to complete devotion of God, show empathy, and encourage good actions toward the community.
Work and fasting are very hard combinations. For those who work with Muslims, please be patient with them as they could be very tired, dehydrated and less focused on their tasks. Fasting will cause moodiness and grumpiness at times because different bodies have different reactions.
Suhur is the time where Muslims wake up before dawn each day and eat the pre-fasting meal to get ready for a long day. Also Muslims pray the Morning Prayer –Fajr- which is the first prayer of the day.
After a long day of fasting, here it is where all comes to an end. When the sun sets, it is time for iftar. Muslims usually gather with families to break their fast and eat. It is a tradition where most people are sitting on the table at the exact time.
In Ramadan, donations are very important and considered a must do or your fasting will not be acceptable. People tend to donate depending on their saving with a fixed percentage. Charity is usually offered to the poor and less fortunate. It is an act of kindness and to remind Muslims to be thankful for what they have in life.
Prayers is one of the most important pillars in Islam. In addition to the normal five prayers a day, people gather at the Mosques for the nightly prayer-Taraweeh- and pray after the night prayer which is the last prayer of the day. Taraweeh is extra prayers executed only in the month of Ramadan. The last 10 days of Ramadan are the most nights where Muslims pray from night prayer to dawn.
Muslims read the Quran more in this month. Some read before praying Taraweeh, and some people actually stay up till dawn and recite the Quran until Morning Prayer is called.
Night of Power
Night of power or –Laylat Al-Qadr- which is the most important night of the year, where Muslims believe that this night is when the angel Gabriel revealed the first verse of Quran to the prophet Muhammad. Muslims recite Quran, and pray all night from night prayer to dawn prayer. This night is known to be better than a thousand months. According to the Islamic belief, one of these odd-numbered nights is where the Quran first got revealed (23rd, 25th , 27th, or 29th). This is why Muslims increase their prayers in the last 10 days of Ramadan.
In this month, many cities around the word have their own decoration with lights that represent this holy month. Also many special food and dessert are served and made only in Ramadan. If you travel to any Muslim country, you will notice that people are very calm during the day, and active during the night. Also during Suhur, there is a volunteer who would actually go around neighborhoods and call the people to wake up and have their pre-fasting meal. The times of Ramadan in Muslim countries are very festive and probably should check it out for experience. Just to give you heads up, it is considered disrespectful to eat, drink and smoke in public. You don’t want to tease people who are fasting and had no food nor water all day long.
Muslims are exempted from fasting if sick, travel or have a medical condition that prevents them from fasting. Woman who are pregnant, nursing, or on monthly cycle are not obligated to fast.
Fasting has scientifically proven that it will give your body a break, cleanse and clear out all the toxins in your body. Most people lose weight in this month. If you are looking for a good diet, Ramadan will definitely help you lose weight. The trick is once you break your fast, don’t stuff your face, eat less carbs, increase protein intake, drink water and eat small portions.
By Mike Al
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