Ramadan is an important day the Muslim culture prepares for every year, which is why fasting reveals the significance in the celebration of the holy prayer month. Beginning on the evening of Wednesday, nearly 1.6 billion Muslims will participate in fasting for an entire month. What is Ramadan, exactly? Ramadan is a month that Muslims will dedicate or recite prayers from the Qur’an, and also fast from daybreak to sunset. This month, it is also believed that the gates of heaven are open while the gates of hell are closed. Muslims are also advised to fast during the Surat Al-Baqarah, which comes second to the longest chapter of the Qu’ran.
Muslims fast for a number of reasons. Intentions for fasting are to bring the faithful closer to God as a reminder to those who are suffering and less fortunate. Feeding the hungry and donating personal items to charity is few ways to remind the cultural purpose. It is considered like an exercise of self-restraint. It is a way to rid oneself of those bad habits during the year that many people would usually engage in. Fasting can be a difficult commitment from dusk to dawn, but the Arabic word “Sawm” means to also fast in other areas of one’s life, such as abstaining from certain activities. “Sawm” translates into the English definition of “refrain“. After the beginning, Muslims have to not only refrain from food or drink; they must also abstain from having sex, or to bear evil thoughts. They should remember to avoid smoking, road rage, gossiping, or negative behavior, as this is is allowing self-restraint within a purified body. Accepting self-purification during the holy month gives the significance of fasting during this time. Muslims who practice Ramadan the entire month will also get a meal in the evening called “Iftar”, which means they will get a daily fast break of a sip of water or a light meal of power food called “suhoor”.
However, there are exceptions to the rules of fasting. The people who are healthy within the Muslim community are expected to fast during Ramadan, but the exceptions apply to children, pregnant women, breast-feeding or menstruating women, the elderly, travelers, or physically and mentally ill people. Choosing the option to fast at a later date or feeding a person less fortunate are ways non-fasters can make up for Ramadan. In some Middle Eastern countries, serious penalties for non-fasters who are eating in public during the day can either be fined or jailed.
Ramadan is usually determined by the mark of the lunar calendar, in order for it to become 11 days earlier each year than it was the year before. The holy month falling in between summer months are more imperative, because of the warmer temperatures and the extra hours of daylight within the day. The Northern Hemisphere will experience 15 hours of daylight on the first day of summer June 21, 2015, making that part of the world the longest day of the year. The evening of June 17 will mark the beginning of the holy month, which may last nearly 29 or 30 days. Muslims mark ending of the holy month by intensive worship, and those who search for prayer answers during “Laytlat al-Qadr“ or ‘The Night of Destiny‘.
This night is to be believed that the angel Gabriel was sent by God to the prophet Muhammad, which is the first verse of the Qur’an. Towards the end of the last three days, a holiday called Eid al- Fitr, is celebrated in honor of ending the month. An early morning Eid prayer will be attended the day after Ramadan. The significance in fasting of the Ramadan is practiced by the Muslim culture all around the world.
By Kayla Hernandez
Edited by Chanel van der Woodsen
Time.com: Why Muslims Celebrate Ramadan
Time.com: See How Ramadan was Observed in the 1940’s
TheSpec.com: What is Ramadan and Why Do Muslims Fast?
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Photo Courtesy of Maryland GovPics Flickr Page – Creative Commons License