Let’s start with the basics: Ramadan is an Islamic holiday that begins with 29-30 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset and ends with the celebration known as Eid-ul-Fitr. This is a very special month for all Muslims as it is a time of forgiveness where one can be absolved of their sins through this cleansing of the soul.
Here are some more important facts about the holiday and how people around the world observe:
- Fasting for Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. The others include: praying 5 times a day, traveling the pilgrimage to Hajj at least once in your lifetime, giving to charity (zakat), and professing your faith that there is only one God and Muhammad is his messenger (shahadah).
- During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset. Yes, that means not even water.
- Muslims wake up before sunrise to eat a meal called suhoor. Suhoor is like a super early breakfast you eat before the sun is out, it helps you stay full throughout the day while fasting.
- Aside from food, Muslims must also abstain from impurities like smoking, drinking, cursing, gossiping, sexual relations, fighting, and others at least from sunrise to sunset.
- Iftaar is the meal Muslims eat to break their fast at sunset.
- Fasting is traditionally broken with dates, a drink and at the 4th prayer time of the day, Maghrib prayer that happens at sunset.
- This month is a time of reflection for people, finding inner peace, balance, and finding oneness with God, it is similar to spiritual meditation. The deep cleansing of the mind, body, and soul that happens at this time absolves people of their sins and allows them to start fresh with a clean slate. This month is meant for extra prayers, and reading the Holy Quran often.
- Ramadan is always during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. However, the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar system and the western calendar is a solar Gregorian calendar so the date moves up the year about 10-12 days each year.
- The start of the holiday is always in a debate as it begins with the sighting of the new moon. Some believe that the new moon must be seen with the naked eye while others rely on the scientific approach using NASA. This leads to different countries, different sects of the religion, and even different mosques to begin fasting on different days.
- It’s believed that the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed to the prophet Muhammad in 610 C.E. The last 10 days of the month is when the Quran was actually revealed. The night is known as Laylat al-Qadr, which translates to “Night of Power.”
- In Muslim nations, the work-day is often shortened to allow for prayer each day and many food shops are closed during the day since people are fasting. In Muslim nations, the clothing and food stores open after iftar time and stay open until 4 a.m. or later so people even go out with family and friends to eat breakfast before the sunrise.
- In some Muslim countries, it is a crime to not fast, unless you have a valid reason not to. Countries like Egypt, Iran, and the UAE have warning tickets, fines, and even jail time if caught eating in public when they should be fasting.
- There is no religious penalty if you accidentally do something to break your fast, whether it’s dropping a curse word in conversation or absentmindedly drinking a sip of water. You must continue to fast the remainder of the day because it was not intentional.
- In Egypt, the clock is pushed back an hour during this month so that it feels like the day is ending sooner and evenings are longer during Ramadan.
- Children don’t have to fast all through the month of Ramadan until they hit puberty. Adults are required to fast unless women are menstruating or pregnant or if someone has a medical condition and cannot fast. Elderly are also not required to fast as it could make them too weak as well, however, some people will still fast as much as they can.
- During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are obligated to give to charity so often you’ll find families donating to their local mosques or charities that support the less fortunate in Muslim nations.
- How long people fast depends on where you live, but it can be up to 22 hours in some countries.
- The last day of Ramadan is a celebration known as Eid-ul-Fitr. Eid is always celebrated with new clothes, gifts of money, tons of relatives and lots and lots of good food.
- The night before Eid is known as Chaand Raat and it is a celebration in preparation for Eid that can last all night long.
- Chaand Raat events have become popular in the States where you can find popular Muslim singers performing, fashion shows, sales of clothing and jewelry, Mehendi artists decorating the hands of women and children, and tons of good food.
- Eid-ul-Fitr is about reverence, it is about asking for forgiveness for your sins.
- Eid-ul-Fitr is not just one day, families spend three days celebrating the holiday with family and friends.
If you want to wish your Muslim friends on this occasion just say “Ramadan Kareem!” and on Eid you say “Eid Mubarak” to wish them happy holidays. Don’t forget the hugs!