Few Things You Should Know About Ramadan, The Most Sacred Month in Islamic Culture
What is Ramadan?
The sighting of a new crescent moon marks the start of Ramadan, a time for piety and self-reflection.
It is believed that Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. EVERY YEAR, MUSLIMS around the world anticipate the sighting of the new crescent moon that signifies the official first day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the most sacred month in Islamic culture. The holy month of Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month in the Hejira, or Islamic calendar.
During Ramadan, healthy Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, but children, the disabled, travelers, and those who are physically or mentally ill or pregnant are exempt. The fast, which is one of the five pillars of Islam includes abstaining from food, drink, smoking, and sex during daylight hours. Muslims aim to maintain purity of thought and actions during Ramadan. But though it may not seem so to the non-Muslim eye, Ramadan is also a festive, family time. After the sunset prayer (Maghrib) rings out from the minarets, and the prayer is complete, it is time to break the fast with the Iftar meal - traditionally fresh dates and water or tea - followed by an actual meal.
THE FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM:
These guidelines are fundamental to the lives of Muslims.
Sawm: fasting from dawn until dusk during Ramadan
Shahadah: believing there is no deity but God and prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) as his messenger
Zakat: giving to charity
Salah: praying five times a day
Hajj: making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once if able.
The month of observance
During Ramadan, Muslims aim to grow spiritually and build stronger relationships with Allah. They do this by praying and reciting the Quran, making their actions intentional and selfless, and abstaining from gossiping, lying, and fighting. Throughout the month Muslims fast, also refraining from drinking and sexual intercourse between sunrise and sunset. Fasting is obligatory for all Muslims, except for the ill, pregnant, traveling, elderly, or menstruating. Days missed fasting can be made up throughout the rest of the year, either all at once or one day here and there. Meals are opportunities for Muslims to gather with others in the community and break their fast together. Pre-dawn breakfast, or suhoor, usually occurs at 4:00 a.m. before the first prayer of the day, fajr. The evening meal, iftar, can begin once the sunset prayer, Maghreb, is finished—normally around 7:30. Since the Prophet Mohammad broke his fast with dates and a glass of water, Muslims eat dates at both suhoor and iftar. A staple of the Middle East, dates(khajoor)are rich in nutrients, easy to digest, and provide the body with sugar after a long day of fasting.
Ramadan nights bustle with activity — families socialize and people flock to the malls and lanes, which are open extra- late, even into the wee hours of the morning.
How is the end of Ramadan celebrated?
Toward the end of the month, Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr or “the Night of Power/Destiny” — a day observers believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad to reveal the Quran’s first verses. On this night, which falls on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, Muslims practice intense worship as they pray for answers and seek forgiveness for any sins.
To mark the end of Ramadan, determined by the sighting of the moon on the 29th, a 3-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr brings families and friends together in early morning prayers followed by picnics, feasts and fun. During these three days of festivities, participants gather to pray, eat, exchange gifts, and pay their respects to deceased relatives. Some cities host carnivals and large prayer gatherings, too.
Does every Muslim fast during Ramadan?
According to most interpreters of the Quran, children, the elderly, the ill, pregnant women, women who are nursing or menstruating, and travelers are exempt from fasting. Being the third pillar of Islam, Fasting becomes compulsory for Muslims.
So, yes. Fasting is compulsory to every Muslim except if he is in these few conditions he is exempt of fasting.
- Traveling (if it's long enough to may prayers shorten.)
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding (If it's dangerous for child's health)
- Senility or old age (If the person has lost all his strength and can't bear fasting)
- Intense hunger and thirst (which may cause threat to life a person is allowed to eat and drink as much as he requires to ward off the hunger and later he will not eat or drink until the sunset. And makeup that fast later on)
- Compulsion (If someone is compelling you to fast against your will, you are not obliged to fast)
- Women menstruating.
For whatever reason, one misses fasting, he has to make it up later on which requires one fast for one missed fast.