Ramadan - what’s it all about
Everyone who has a Muslim friend, colleague or neighbor has noticed that the behavior of them has changed quite a bit for the last few days. Some might already know that it’s the month of Ramadan and that Muslims fast during the whole month.
But why do they fast anyway and what are they allowed to eat during the month of Ramadan? Do I have to act different to my Muslim friends and can I still Invite my Muslim colleagues to dinner?
This is a little explanation to give you a better understanding of what Ramadan is about.
How long does it lasts?
The Islamic month of Ramadan occurs annually and happens every year about 11 days earlier than the year before. that’s why this year Ramadan happens during July, which is the hottest month in many Muslim countries. A few years ago it happened in December which of courses makes it easier for Muslims to fast as the days were shorter and the temperatures were much lower.
Ramadan starts at the sight of the New Moon and end at the sight of the next New Moon. So it lasts one month, or about 29-30 days.
Narrated Ibn Umar: I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “When you see the crescent (of the month of Ramadan), start fasting, and when you see the crescent (of the month of Shawwal), stop fasting; and if the sky is overcast (and you can’t see It) then regard the crescent (month) of Ramadan (as of 30 days)”.
What are Muslims doing during the month of Ramadan?
Ramadan is the most important month of the Muslim calendar.
In this holy month Muslims are granted forgiveness of Allah and if they repent for their past sins, all of them will be forgiven.
For this, all Muslims that have reached puberty have to fast from dusk to dawn.
After sunset they are allowed to drink and eat anything they like. The feeling of hunger and thirst which the Believers experience during the hours of fasting should remind them of the poor who feel like this every day. It should encourage the Muslim community to give more charity and to feed the poor.
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Whoever established prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven; and whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”
However fasting isn’t only about leaving food and drinks for the day. You have to keep yourself away from anything that is considered forbidden (haram) such as swear words, smoking and back biting. There are opinions that it is haram to listen to music and therefore this could be on the list too, but opinions about this topic differ so I won’t say it’s forbidden or allowed. But it is good to reduce the time that you listen to music and increase time where you listen to Quran and Islamic songs.
For couples it is also forbidden to have sexual relations during the day.
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)”
Muslims offer 5 prayers daily through out the whole year but during Ramadan it is recommended to increase the prayers. Tarawih is a prayer that is offered at night. It is only offered in Ramadan and many Muslims spend most of their night in Ramadan with praying and reading Quran.
Are there any exceptions?
People who has illnesses that prevent them from fasting don’t need to fast and the same goes for pregnant and breastfeeding woman. A pregnant woman can fast if it is safe for the unborn child and her, but she is not obligated to fast. If any Muslim misses some days of fasting for any reason they have to make up those days at a later time, If this is not possible than it is permissible to feed one poor person for each day that they have missed.
A reason to miss a day of fasting can also be a travel. If a Muslim has to travel he can choose, not to fast on that day and to make it up later. This does only apply for the time of the travel and if they stay less than 3 days at their destination. If they travel to a place and stay there for more than 3 days than they can only skip the fasting during the travel and have to continue fasting after that.
So why do they fast anyway?
The main reason why Muslims fast is simply because Allah ( God) has ordered them to do so.
Ramadan should show the Believers how hunger and thirst feels like so they will show mercy towards the poor and give more charity.
It is also a chance for the Muslims to have their sins forgiven if the repent sincerely and fast, than Allah will forgive their past sins.
Ramadan shouldn’t be an event where the Muslim changes for one month and than goes back to normal after it. Muslims are encouraged to keep the good habits that they started through out the year, so that eventually after every Ramadan the Muslim will be a better person than the year before.
Evidence from the Qur'an : "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for the people before you in order for you to gain God consciousness, and, "...The month of Ramadan, during which the Qur'an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance and the criterion; and whoever of you is resident, let him fast the month" [al-Baqarah 185].
After Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the main festival of Islam which is called Eid - ul - Fitr. It lasts for 3 days. And it is a tradition for Muslims to get a new set of clothes which they can wear for this event. Families are meeting for Eid to eat together and to wish each other “Eid Mubarek”
Some more Hadith about the Ramadan, for a better understanding.
Hadith are words of the most important prophet of Islam Mohamed (peace be upon him).
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.”
Narrated A’isha, Ummul Mu’minin: The Sunnah for one who is observing i’tikaf (in a mosque) is not to visit a patient, or to attend a funeral, or touch or embrace one’s wife, or go out for anything but necessary purposes. There is no i’tikaf without fasting, and there is no i’tikaf except in a congregational mosque.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.” The Prophet added, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. (Allah says about the fasting person), ‘He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times.”