Muslims around the world will celebrate Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar, fasting in observance of their faith.
Every year Muslims from all over the world and from all ethnic and economic backgrounds begin fasting from dawn to sunset every day during a most blessed month in the Islamic tradition, known as Ramadan.
Ramadan is the holiest time in the Muslim faith, similar to a holiday – but at a month long, it would be the longest holiday in existence. Also unlike holidays, Ramadan doesn’t commemorate a particular event per se (although Muhammed received his first holy revelation during this time), it’s more a time of focus on the Muslim faith, where adherents put extra effort into practicing the tenets of their faith.
The Importance of Ramadan
Ramadan is important for Muslims because it is believed to be the month during which the Holy Quran (the Muslims Holy book) was revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad (570-632 C.E.). It is also important because it is the month during which the Muslims were ordered to fast, achieving one of their spiritual satisfaction and practice.
Muslims consider the Quran to be the true words of God given to humanity through Muhammad, who is considered the last of the prophets. Muhammed was to call the people to monotheism and righteousness. This tradition of God chosen prophets or messengers is believed to include such figures as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day. This means not to eat, drink or smoke during the daylight hours. For married adults, it also includes refraining from marital relations during the hours of fasting (i.e. the daylight hours). The fasting person is expected to do his best to practice self control and discipline, not to get angry easy, refrain from using harsh language or insults and to tolerate, forgive and respect others. Young children, old and sick people are not expected to fast. Older people can feed a poor person for every day they cannot fast of Ramadan. Sick people can compensate by fasting other days when they feel well. Children are permitted to fast only when they are strong enough physically to tolerate fasting without difficulty.
Fasting is the most well-known aspect of Ramadan. For the entire month-long period, Muslims are not to eat or drink from sunup to sundown, although exceptions are made for the sick, elderly, children, and pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating women. But just because exceptions are made doesn’t mean they are always taken advantage of. Fasting brings them closer to God, so most people adhere to the fast except in extreme circumstances where it may adversely affect their health.
Ramadan fasting is not dangerous for healthy adults. In fact, studies have shown improvements in blood lipid profiles and positive body composition changes in many adherents. Often, doctors will work with people to keep the fast from interfering with ongoing medical conditions or medications.
Muslims normally pray 5 times a day. During Ramadan, it’s a chance for them to have devotional time. They pray and read Quran more intensively. Silence is spent in praying and reciting Quran. The family pray together as the parents teach their sons and daughters.
The spirit of the whole month of Ramadan is one of sharing, prayer, and holiness. Lights and lanterns are popular decorations, symbolizing enlightenment and the path to God. The Muslim sentiment during Ramadan mirrors the Christian sentiment during the month of December – sure, there’s stress and obligation, but the whole thing is so beautiful and so spiritual that you wish it could last forever. Ideally, people from both faiths would strive to carry that spirit with them year-round.