Ramadan Mubarak. Photo Credit: Cristina John
By Cristina John
It is in this holy month of Islam that Muslims finds themselves fasting differently than their previous years. Muslims all over the world take part in this experience to fast, pray, reflect and come together as a community.
Islam, the second most populous religion, is not the only religion that requires fasting. Other religions, which are not limited to Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Catholicism, have a fasting period. Though fasting is part of many religions, it is for the same cause: to be closer to God.
What Is Ramadan?
Ramadan also ‘Ramazan’, the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, represents the holy month of fasting. It is believed that Ramadan is the month the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PHUB). Adults and children alike fast in this month from sunrise to sunset.
Ramadan is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Amongst this one, Muslims are required to make:
- Shahada: This is the statement you declare in Islam: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” You should say this wholeheartedly. Anyone who cannot do so is not a Muslim.
- Pray five times a day: Fajr, dhuhr, asr, maghrib, isha’a are the five prayers you pray at different times of the day.
- Alms to the poor: This means money, food, or other donations to the needy or poor.
- Pilgrimage to Mecca: This is not considered compulsory to all but only to those that are capable of doing so, physically and financially. This is to be done once in your lifetime.
Muslims pray to be closer to Allah and to be compassionate and understand those who are in need. Fasting is also a way to break any habits you may have. This month is to be a month filled with kindness. However, for an upstanding Muslim, acts of kindness — small or big — should be performed on a daily basis.
Muslims wake up early in the morning to eat a meal called suhoor (which has many spellings). To break their fast, Muslims eat after sunset, which is called iftar. They eat this meal after they have prayed their fourth prayer of the day, maghrib.
Usually, when Muslims break their fast, they congregate at their local mosques to pray Taraweeh. Mosques will provide food for the poor and needy of their community and everyone would come together.
As it goes with all cultures, there are different ways that Muslims celebrate Ramadan. Some Muslims invite their families and guests over for iftar.
However, this Ramadan is a bit different because of the coronavirus. Mosques are closed and families are required to stay indoors. The best part about this Ramadan is that it brings Muslims closer to their religion and family.
How Long Is Ramadan?
Muslims wait for the sighting of the new moon before they consider it to be Ramadan.
Ramadan goes on for one month. This year, Ramadan started on April 23, 2020 and will end on May, 23 2020. Ramadan begins and ends with the sighting of the crescent moon.
Who Does Not Have to Fast?
While fasting is required during Ramadan, there are a few exceptions, which includes:
- Women who are on their menstrual cycle
- Pregnant women
- The elderly who are not equipped
- The sick
- Children — until they are of age (puberty), before they are allowed
- People who are traveling
If you are not able to fast, you should feed those who are. This is a substitution for someone who aren’t fasting so they can receive the same benefits and rewards that Allah gives.
What Do You Do to Break Fast?
Once the call to pray the evening prayer, maghrib, is called Muslims are ready to break their fast and pray after. To do this, Muslims must break their fast with three dates and a drink of water.
What Breaks Your Fast?
While eating dates and drinking water breaks your fast, there are activities that will break your fast. Muslims have three months to make up the days they did not fast or when they broke their fast the wrong way. However, there are different opinions about who should make up their fasts.
Some of the activities that breaks your fast include:
- Eating intentionally
- Sexual intercourse
- Fighting (physically or verbally) — anything that results in anger.
What Is Wudu and Ghusl?
Some activities require Muslims to make ‘wudu’ or ‘ghusl.’ They both are cleansing methods. Each of these cleansing rituals should be done before Muslims pray.
Wudu is the process of cleansing your hands, arms, nose, mouth, ear, neck, and feet with water. There are many opinions of the order each body part should be cleaned. If any Muslim partake in an activity that invalidates their wudu, they must make wudu again before they pray.
Activities that invalidates a Muslim’s wudu, includes but are not limited to:
- Using the bathroom
- Sexual intercourse
- Using foul language
However, when Muslims are intimate with their partners, they must make ghusl, a full-body cleansing ritual, which is taking a shower.
With both of these rituals, Muslims must first make their intention to perform these rituals: Bismillah.
What Comes Next After Ramadan?
Muslims only have two major holidays: Ramadan and Eid. There are two Eids: Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.
Eid Al-Fitr marks the completion of the fast and it goes on for three days. This is a festival that celebrates and indicates the end of the month-long fast. Muslims come together on this day and pray together. This is the day that Muslims are not permitted to fast.
Eid Al-Adha is considered the holier of the two Eids. This Eid is to honor Ibrahim’s memory and his loyalty to Allah (swt).
This year, Eid Al-Fitr is on May 23, 2020 to May 24, 2020 while Eid Al-Adha is on July 30, 2020 to July 31, 2020.