Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims consider this to be the most holy month and observe fast during the daylight hours as a mark of respect and regard for God. Traditionally these daylight hours were marked during that period in which one can distinguish a white thread from a black one. Eating was permitted when this distinction could no longer be made.
There are some rules and guidelines to be followed for observing the fast. Every Muslim must form his intentions for observing the fast. Each day early morning before dawn he or she must profess these intentions otherwise the fast is considered invalid without any real thought or commitment to it.
Young children, people in poor health, pregnant, breastfeeding and menstruating women, sick people and travelers are exempt from fasting during Ramadan.
There is a difference of opinion though, on who exactly is exempt from fasting. Little children are not required to fast however; as they grow older they are highly recommended to fast. Travelers and menstruating women are exempt from fasting but they have to compensate for it by fasting for the missed days later in the year. One can avoid fasting by feeding thirty poor people each day.
There are a few things that are considered as forbidden during fasting and can be considered as a reason for breaking the fast such as putting medicinal drops in the eyes, having sex, using harsh words, listening to music and swallowing saliva.
As per Islamic laws, fasting is observed during Ramadan to become a better person and get closer to God. Muslims believe that fasting during Ramadan will help them purify their souls of all sins and past mistakes.
Ramadan does not fall during a specific time period in a year. As the Muslims follow the lunar calendar, the period of Ramadan can be during the winter or during summer.
The daily Ramadan fast usually breaks at sun set and Muslims have small meals first and a larger meal late in the evening. To sustain their daily fast, Muslims usually have an early morning meal.
There are a few days during Ramadan which are considered very special. They are:
- The battle of Badr: This battle took place on the 17thof Ramadan during the 625 CE.
- Retaking of Mecca: It is believed that on the 19th of Ramadan in 630 CE, Prophet Muhammad managed to return to take charge of Mecca from his opponents.
- Deaths: The important deaths that occurred during Ramadan are Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija on 10th and Ali and the eight Shiite Imam, Ali Reza on 21st.
- Births: The important births that occurred during Ramadan are of Hussein on 6th and Ali on 22nd.
- Laylat al-Qadr: This means ‘the night of power’. This is celebrated on an odd numbered day during one of the last ten days of Ramadan. It is believed that on this night the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad and the prayers of a sincere and devout Muslim are answered on this night.
- Eid al Fitr: This day marks the end of Ramadan and a large feast is organized on the first day of the tenth month, Shawwal. This day is generally called ‘Eid’ and elaborate meals and dishes are prepared to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
Facts and Origins
- It is believed that the tradition of fasting in Ramadan is instilled from the early inception to fast on the tenth day of Muharram which is identical with the Day of Atonement of Jews.
- There is some dispute regarding the derivation of the name Ramadan. Some believe it comes from Arabic words ‘Ramida’ and ‘ar-ramad’ which mean scorching heat which refers to the scorching away of sins from fasting. Others believe that it means ‘summer’ and there is no actual reference to fasting behind the word.