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Ramadan: The Muslim Holy Month of fasting

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim Islamic calendar and Muslims all over the world fast during the whole of this month. According to the Muslims, Allah tells them in the Holy Quran, “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.”

After the month of fasting, God provides the Muslims a special gift right after Ramadan and it is called ‘Eid ul-Fitr’, which brings with it festivities and celebrations.

The message of Ramadan is that we should spend our lives loving the God and His creation. We should always put our dignity aside to earn this everlasting happiness and reward. We should live our lives like the days of Ramadan, so that when our death comes, it is like Eid.

During Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast (abstain from food and beverages) from sunrise till sunset, which is at least 12 hours each day. Ramadan is one of the holiest months in the Islamic lunar calendar for Muslims. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which uses the sun as its guide, the Islamic calendar uses the moon. While months in the Gregorian calendar usually have 30-31 days, months in the lunar calendar have 29-30 days. This might not seem like much of a difference, but having one or two fewer days in the month means having 12-13 days less than the Gregorian calendar each year. So if a month falls on a certain day this year, next year that month falls on a day that is 12-13 days earlier than the previous year. These days add up and after a few years the month that fell in spring a few years ago now happens during the winter, and so on.

Fasting is a very important spiritual exercise to seek forgiveness of our shortcomings and improve our conduct. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The five (daily) prayers, and from one jumu’ah prayer to the (next) jumu’ah prayer, and from Ramadan to Ramadan are expiations for the (sin) committed in between (their intervals); provided the major sins are not committed”. Fasting is to be purely out of love for God and to thank Him for what He has blessed us in our daily lives. One way to show this gratitude is to do extraordinary charity during this month.

Because of this inconsistency, the Muslims don’t really develop a seasonal recognition of Ramadan. Americans might see Santa Claus and think of winter but you can’t do that with Ramadan. There were many lunar calendars before the Gregorian calendar was discovered, and even though there has been tremendous pressure for Muslims to abandon their calendar, they refused to do so. If you think about it, there is a lot of wisdom to the tradition. If Ramadan always falls in winter in the northern hemisphere, and in summer in the southern hemisphere, then people in the southern hemisphere would be fasting a lot more than their counterparts in the north and Ramadan would be more difficult for them. Because it changes, people in both hemispheres get to experience Ramadan in different seasons, making it all the more fair.

Ramadan (or Ramzan) is a Muslim holiday, but it is not a holiday in the general sense of the word. In fact, it’s not even a day, it’s an entire month. Considered the holiest month of the year, Muslims believe this is when the Holy Quran was sent down from Heaven, guidance unto men.

After abstaining from food and beverages from sunrise to sunset, a Muslim usually eat a large meal. There are many reasons to fast, including the Muslim tradition. Other reasons include self-control. If a person is able to abstain from food and drink for that much amount of time, he/she learns to control his/her desires and temptations and thus has greater self-control.

 

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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