Muslims all over the world fast from dawn to dusk on Ramadan, which is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar and is considered a holy period. This year, Ramadan will begin on the evening of May 15, Tuesday and end on the evening of June 14, Thursday. To answer the common queries about this pious period here’s looking at the most common questions.
Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?
The objective of the fast is to remind the suffering of the less fortunate and to bring the followers closer to God. As mentioned in the holy book, Quran, Muslims, during this month, are supposed to donate alms to the poor and feed the hungry.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity, and performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. The month of Ramadan is a self-exercise in restraint. It’s seen as a way to physically and spiritually detoxify by kicking impulses like morning coffee, smoking and midday snacking.
How do Muslims fast?
They abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan, with a single sip of water or a puff of a cigarette considered enough to invalidate the fast.
Muslim scholars say it’s not enough to just avoid food and drinks during the day. Couples must abstain from sexual intercourse during the day, and Muslims should not engage in road rage, cursing, fighting or gossiping.
They are also encouraged to observe the five daily prayers on time and to use their downtime just before breaking their fast at sunset to recite Quran and intensify remembrance of God.
To prepare for the fast, Muslims eat what is commonly called “suhoor,” a pre-dawn meal of power foods to get them through the day.
How do Muslims break their fast?
To break the fast, a large, sumptuous feast known as “iftar” is prepared. It includes an array of different fruits, fries and other delicacies which are shared among the members of the family. Needless to say, it is a highly anticipated event, and preparations for it begin from the afternoon itself.
Across the Arab world, juices made from apricots are a staple at Ramadan iftars. In South Asia and Turkey, yogurt-based drinks are popular. Across the Muslim world, mosques and aid organisations set up tents and tables for the public to eat free “iftar” meals every night of Ramadan.
Though the Quran harps on the need to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, it also has room for some exceptions. Children, pregnant women, elderly, girls who are menstruating and sick people are exempted from the fast.
What are the different traditions observed during Ramadan?
Muslims during Ramadan generally greet each other saying, “Ramadan mubarak!” and Sunni Muslims go to the mosque at night to offer prayers – the practice is known as “taraweeh”. In Egypt, lantern called “fanoos,” which is often placed at the centre of the iftar table, can sometimes be seen hanging in window shops and balconies during Ramadan. In the Gulf countries, wealthy sheikhs hold “majlises” where they open their doors for people to pass by all hours of the night for food, tea, coffee and conversation. Several restaurants also keep their doors open till the wee hours in the morning, and offer lavish meals.
How do Muslims mark the end of Ramadan?
The end of Ramadan is marked by intense worship as Muslims seek to have their prayers answered during “Laylat al-Qadr” or “the Night of Destiny.” It is on this night, which falls during the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that Muslims believe that God sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad and revealed the first verses of the Quran.
Some devout Muslims go into reclusion during those final days, spending all of their time in the mosque.
The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr. Children often receive new clothes, gifts and cash.