Ramadan (sometimes spelled Ramadhan) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims fast or do not eat or drink during the daytime. The date for the start of Ramadan is slightly different each year, depending on the position of the moon. Once Ramadan starts, Muslims should not eat or drink between dawn and sunset. This usually continues for thirty days, but sometimes twenty-nine days.
The Islamic Calendar
The Islamic calendar is based on 12 lunar months making up one year. The lunar year is shorter than the solar year by approximately ten days. The beginning of the year is marked from the time of the migration Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) took from his birthplace of Makkah (Mecca) to where Islam developed in Madinah (sometimes spelled Medina).
The Prophet accepted an invitation to migrate to Madinah where he was warmly welcomed. There he set up the first Islamic Mosque and Madinah eventually became the capital of the Islamic State.
Ramadan is the name of the ninth and holiest month of the Muslim calendar. The month of Ramadan is also the month in which the Holy Qur’an was
sent down from heaven, a guidance unto man, a declaration of direction, and a means of salvation.
In 2019, Ramadan will start from Sundown on May 6th.
It is during this month that Muslims fast. It is called the fast of Ramadan and lasts from dawn to sunset every day of the month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of the trivial aspects of their everyday lives. It is a time of increased worship and contemplation. All healthy Muslims who have reached the age of puberty are required to fast during the month of Ramadan.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. It enables people to come closer to God, to practise self discipline and to share and understand the suffering of poor and hungry people all over the world. The shared deprivation and sacrifice of fasting, and the subsequent celebrations at the end of Ramadan, also brings families and communities closer together. During Ramadan it is even more important for a Muslim to adhere to the moral standards that are expected of a pious Muslim all year round.
The Islamic fast involves total abstinence from foul language, conflicts during the entire period and from food, drink, smoking, and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset. Non essential medication is also restricted during fasting hours. At the end of the day the fast is broken with a date and/or a little water followed by a prayer and a meal called “iftaar” (or iftar).
The fast is resumed the next morning. During Ramadan people usually rise an hour or two before dawn and have their early breakfast together before the fast begins. Children from the age of 7 are encouraged to begin fasting with their parents for part of the day for a few days. Certain people are exempt from fasting.
Those exempted include:
- people who are ill
- women who are pregnant, breast feeding, or menstruating
However people who miss the Ramadan fast must normally make up the days lost as soon as possible. Those who are permanently ill can compensate missed days by feeding the poor.
During Ramadan, it is common for Muslims to spend more time than usual in prayer and in reading the Qur’an (Islam’s holy book). Additional prayers other than the five compulsory ones may be prayed and are encouraged to be prayed in congregation at the Mosque.
Night of Power
On the 27th evening of the month of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the “Night of Power”. It is believed to occur on one of the last odd 10 nights of Ramadan. It was on this night that the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. This night is normally spent in worship and prayers.
The month of Ramadan is also a time of community and social belonging, with Muslims around the world joining together to fast at the same time of the year. Ramadan is the month of hospitality, every night Muslims take it in turn to invite friends and relatives to break their fast together. They serve the best they can offer; and endeavour to invite the poor. It is common that money, equivalent of a typical meal, is donated to the less fortunate before the end of Ramadan.
Eid-ul-Fitr is a celebration lasting three days that marks the end of Ramadan. This occasion is first observed by a congregational prayer at the Mosque after sunrise at which all members of the family attend, wearing their best clothes. Friends and family gather afterwards for celebration meals and gifts are given, especially to children. This celebration serves to remind Muslims of the significance of their month of fasting. The emphasis of the festival is a strong commitment to charity and praise to God for bestowing the blessings of health and security.
Eid-ul-Adha is a celebration of the completion of the pilgrimage (Hajj) which is the last of the five pillars of Islam. It commemorates the willingness of the Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael at God’s command. Instead God provided a lamb for the sacrifice. This “Festival of Sacrifice”, begins on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hujjah, and lasts four days. The occasion is first observed by a congregational prayer in the mosque, followed by sharing sacrificial meat and meals with the poor, relatives and neighbours. The emphasis is upon strengthening the ties of brotherhood and sisterhood.
There are several festivals held through out major Australian cities that usually occur on the following weekend of each of the celebrations. Islamic guidelines should be observed in the conduct of all celebrations.