Ramadan is a time for Muslims to focus on self-discipline, motivation, and acts of charity.
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is arguably the most spiritual period for Muslims. As one of Five Pillars of Islam, this twenty-nine to thirty day period of fasting, prayer, community, and introspection is deeply practiced and respected. Here are some things you probably never knew about Ramadan:
1. These groups of people don’t need to fast:
The elderly, chronically ill, traveling, breastfeeding, diabetic, and women who are menstruating are not required to fast during the annual holiday. All other adult Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset. The meal before sunrise is called suhur, while the late night meal after sunset is referred to as iftar.
2. Scorching heat.
The word ‘Ramadan’ is not only one of the names of God in Islam, but it actually comes from R-M-D in Arabic which means “scorching heat.” In some countries, the letter “d” is replaced with “z.” For instance, in Iran, India, Pakistan, and Turkey, Ramadan becomes Ramazan.
3. Prophet Mohammed.
Muslims believe that it was during the month of Ramadan that God unveiled the first verses of the Quaran to Mohammed on The Night of Power. Regarding the holiest month for Muslims, Prophet Mohammed reportedly said,
“When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained.”
4. In the Quaran…
The month of Ramadan is, in fact, mentioned in the Quaran:
“A guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.”
5. Lunar calendar.
Similar to the Chinese lunar calendar which dictates the changing dates of the Chinese New Year annually, the dates of Ramadan also change every year according to the lunar Islamic calendar. The Ramadan period begins with the observance of the crescent moon, and the end of Ramadan is always marked by the Eid al-Fitr holiday which is celebrated with a communal prayer, sermon, exchanges of gifts, and new clothes for children.
6. Fasting = cleansing of the soul.
Also known as sawm, fasting is widely viewed in the Muslim faith as a symbol of spiritual reflection, self-control, worship and sacrifice. In addition to abstinence from eating and drinking, many Muslims also refrain from sexual acts, chewing gum, smoking cigarettes, and using foul language during Ramadan. Most importantly, Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslims to empathize for those who are less fortunate, highlighting the importance of charity and generosity.
7. Is kissing okay?
Some scholars have declared that kissing is not allowed during Ramadan, while others believe that it’s permitted if kissing doesn’t sexually “move” a person. For example, a quick kiss to say goodbye or hello to your partner doesn’t sexually “move” a person. Some scholars believe that long hugs, sensual kisses, or French kissing would be considered more likely to sexually “move” a person.
8. What if you mess up?
If you chew gum or drink even a sip of water, then you start over the next day. To make up for the days you didn’t fast, you can either opt to do it later in the year or give food to a needy or a poor person for every day that you missed fasting.
9. Negative thoughts.
Muslims are expected to steer away from thoughts of jealousy, anger, gossiping, and even whining. Similar to Lent, some might choose to give up one item of indulgence and listen to chants of Quran instead.
10. Business as usual.
Typically, schools and work hours should remain the same during Ramadan. Saudi Arabia is the perfect example of a country where employees are expected to operate in full swing. However, many Muslim countries, including Algeria, allow businesses and schools to reduce hours since productivity declines around 35-50%. Some major decisions or important meetings are postponed until Ramadan is over.