02 Apr Answers to Common Questions for Those Curious About Ramadan
Answers to Common Questions for Those Curious About Ramadan
There are over two billion Muslims across the globe, and in a couple of weeks, they will all be fasting during the month of Ramadan. This would mean no food and no drinks for a large portion of the day. Such a change in routine is definitely noticeable, and if you have a friend or colleague who is a Muslim, you must have noticed this change too. And even if you do not know a Muslim person directly, if you have a Muslim community living in your area, you must have noticed some change still.
Seeing all this raises a lot of questions in the mind of someone who is not intimately familiar with Ramadan. While it can be a bit confusing to see your best friend miss your daily game for a complete month, you can learn what it is like for them and perhaps even show your support where you can. We are sharing details on all the important aspects of Ramadan and the change in lifestyle it creates for any Muslim, so, keep reading to find out more.
Some basic information about Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic “Hijri” calendar, and it is also the most important and sacred. There is a total of 12 months in the Islamic calendar, and it follows the lunar cycle. According to the teachings of Islam, the revelation of the holy book Quran started during this month. Prophet Muhammad, the last Prophet to be given a holy book, got these revelations on the 27th night of Ramadan.
Among the teachings of Islam, there is also the requirement for Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan, as long as they are physically capable.
Ramadan’s starting point keeps on changing every year by a difference of about ten days. This is because of the amount of difference that lunar years get when compared to the more commonly used Gregorian calendar. The start of Ramadan is officiated in most places with the sighting of the moon which one may or may not see on a given day.
However, some authorities also use scientific knowledge to determine the birth of the new moon and use that as the starting point for Ramadan. With such an important phenomenon depending on the sighting of the moon, it is natural that there are government authorities and committees in all Muslim countries responsible for observing lunar sightings.
For people who live in countries with non-Muslim majorities, this approach is not feasible. In such cases, the people either follow the biggest Islamic centre or mosque in that country, or they simply follow some other country with a Muslim majority. Most of the time, people follow Saudi Arabia as that is the geographical origin of Islam and the place where the Prophet Muhammad spent his life.
Why is fasting observed?
According to the Muslim faith, fasting is an effective way of improving an individual’s relationship with God. It is an activity that reminds them of all the blessings they have and improves themselves spiritually. Many hours of the day are spent in the recitation of the Quran, praying five times a day in the mosque, and most of all, giving to charity. While the Muslim population does have an inclination towards charity, fasting in Ramadan increases that spirit tenfold, and people often end up giving generously.
The biggest part of the fasting period is abstaining from all food and drinks. While they could just go and buy their food and beverages, they don’t do that because they are connecting with the less fortunate members of society. Not having enough food and other resources can make life quite difficult, and that is the uniting factor for Muslims everywhere. It also helps people grow a feeling of compassion in themselves and appreciate the many privileges that they enjoy.
Who is eligible for fasting?
All men and women who have reached their puberty are mandated by Islam to fast the 29-30 days of the month. However, if a person is sick and cannot fast, or they are on a trip that’s deemed long enough, they don’t have to fast. Women on their periods are also exempt from taking part in Ramadan. However, upon recovery, all of them are liable to fast against all the days during which they didn’t fast.
Furthermore, you will also find leniency and exemptions for young children, old people, and even women who are pregnant or nursing new-born children. There is a lot of flexibility in Islam regarding who can fast, but with reasonable logic behind it. As for young children, while they are not mandated, you will see a lot of them fasting anyway. This is a great way to build up stamina when they are close to reaching puberty.
“Find the answers to some of the most common Ramadan-related questions.”
What can make a fast invalid?
A lot of people often show a keen interest in how a person could invalidate their fast. You will find people asking questions such as, “what would happen if you mistakenly drank or ate something? Is there any way for you to cheat the no eating and drinking rule? What other acts can break a fast?”
As far as the food is concerned, if a person eats or drinks by mistake, their fast remains intact. In fact, it is believed that if a person mistakenly eats or drinks, it is because they needed some energy boost and were unknowingly assisted by God. However, if such an incident does occur, they are supposed to stop eating or drinking right away and even spit out the food that they may still have in their mouth.
There are some other conditions as well that must be met to make sure the fast remains intact. This includes avoiding sexual intercourse, vomiting with a full mouth, among others.
Why does Ramadan keep shifting?
As discussed earlier, Ramadan is part of the Islamic calendar which is lunar. Lunar calendars are different from normal calendars, and they are generally shorter by a few days. This is because they follow the cycle of the moon instead of the rotation of the earth around the sun. As a result of this practice, the actual count of the Islamic Lunar calendar experiences a difference of ten days on an annual basis. This causes the dates to shift backwards, thereby moving the time of the year when Ramadan occurs.
Similarly, the time a person spends fasting also changes every year. However, these changes are related to the cycle of day and night. The fasting time starts just before sunrise and ends at sundown. As you go through the year, the amount of sunlight you receive changes as well. In summers the days are longer, thereby making the fast longer. However, in the winters, the situation is opposite as the days are shorter, so the amount of time for fasting is also shorter.
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How to start and end a fast?
To start fasting, Muslims wake up early in the morning before the time for Fajr “sunrise” starts. They eat their food on “Suhoor” to prepare their body for the upcoming day and stock up on energy by eating a proper meal. As soon as the time for Fajr starts, the time for fasting also starts, and they cannot eat or drink for the whole day after that.
After spending the day in hunger and thirst, they prepare to break the fast at sunset. To do that, all they have to do is resume eating food. A major tradition among Muslims is to arrange for huge “iftar” which is the meal for breaking fast. They usually get food prepared for a large number of people and then distribute it or invite people to their feast.
This is especially popular for poor people who cannot afford to buy their own food at the time of iftar, or on regular days as well.
It is that same spiritual uplifting that Ramadan tries to focus on during the whole month.
What is Taraweeh?
Muslims are mandated to pray five times a day every single day of the year. During Ramadan, an additional prayer comes into the mix in the form of Taraweeh. This is a form of prayer which is not really mandatory but is closely associated with praying. We told you that Muslims use Ramadan to improve their relationship with God, and this is a key method of doing that. Ramadan is about spending the nights in prayer and Taraweeh is meant to do exactly that. This prayer is observed as a congregational activity in mosques all over the world.
A few other traditions to bear in mind
A special part of Ramadan is the change in how everything thing looks around this time of the year. There is a lot of influence of Ramadan on the cultural and social aspect as well, and there are a lot of decorative aspects that you can observe during Ramadan. The use of special “Islamic” themed lanterns is a huge part of the middle eastern culture.
You will also see a lot of entertainment on the TV and online that shows you things related to Ramadan. There is a lot of capitalization of Ramadan activities by media groups. Special programs are broadcast at the time of iftar to grab the attention of the maximum number of people and score viewing times.
This may be becoming part of some cultures, but it has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. The most recommended way of spending time during fasting is to read the Quran or some other Islamic material. In addition to that, special focus is to be put on making sure that the consumption of useless media where your time may be wasted with zero gain is also avoided.
Another common tradition, even though it has nothing to do with Ramadan, is the payment of Zakat. This is a special form of charity that is mandatory for anyone who has assets above a certain value. These values are predefined and can be found easily, so we will not talk about them here. The point is that Muslims choose to pay this major mandatory charity in the month of Ramadan due to its importance.
A big attraction of Ramadan is that the reward for all good deeds a person does gets multiplied exponentially. Therefore, spending money during this time to pay Zakat is a preference for a lot of Muslims.
How does Ramadan come to an end?
As you already know, Ramadan is a month in the Islamic calendar, and with the end of the month, the activities associated with it also come to an end. However, when Ramadan ends, it is immediately followed by Eid-al-Fitr the next day. The first of the two Eid holidays that Muslims celebrate; this is a reward for all the efforts Muslims did during the entire month of Ramadan.
It starts with a congregational prayer that happens around mid-morning, and it is then followed by lots of festivities. People enjoy themselves, go and meet their relatives and friends, and do other fun activities as well. There is plenty of food and children also get presents from their elders, plus, there are plenty of decorations for all to enjoy. All-in-all, Eid-al-Fitr marks a beautiful end to a revered month.