Ramadan (LK-3)

The Holy Month of Ramadan- Even if you don’t Celebrate it’s a Pretty Cool Holiday (LK-3)

Main Things you Should Probably Know…

1) It's a month of fasting.

2) It's celebrated by Muslims across the globe.

3) Very sacred and a period of time to pray a lot.

4) It was the month in which the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

Basics of Islam

Islam originated in Arabia and has spread all over the world since then. Islam is the world’s second largest religion, with Christianity as the largest religion. There are more than one billion followers of Islam. The largest Muslim populations include countries such as Iran, Indonesia,  Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey, and Egypt. There are an estimated seven million Muslims in The United States of America. There are also mosques{1} available in all fifty states.

Intro to this Glorious Holiday

Ramadan{2} is a month long (bet you wouldn't have guessed that one) and is a time for fasting and resisting temptation. The Muslims consider this the holiest and probably the most important month in the Islamic year. It is a time to learn gratitude, self-control, and compassion for those less fortunate.

The Fasting Process

Fasting in the Arabic language is sawm and it literally translates to refrain. So not only do they have to abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours, they have to resist from smoking, sex, fighting, false speech{3}, and all evil thoughts. If you are a child, ill, pregnant, elderly, a traveler, etc. you are exempt from the fasting but you can make up for it by fasting at a later time except for those who can't fast at all due to age or a chronic illness. In which case, they must feed someone in need for every day of fasting they miss. The eventual goal is to reach a state of constant God-consciousness. “Fasting is a means of purifying the body as well as the spirit, as it gives the body a rest from the continuous task of digesting food.” (https://ing.org/ramadan-information-sheet/)

When is it?

It's based on the lunar cycle from one crescent moon to the next so Ramadan shifts around 11 days per year. The dates from year to year may vary but it is always the 9th month in the Islamic calendar and it is 29-30 days long around the time of our June and May. This year it’s May fifteenth through June fourteenth. The fasting is only during daylight hours but that does not mean once the sun sets you can bust out the brownies and gorge yourself. However, because the typical human body cannot go for more than 3 weeks without food and more than 3 days without water, you can drink some water and have a light snack after or before sunlit hours so you do not starve or dehydrate.

History of Ramadan

In the year 610 CE one night during Ramadan{4} when Muhammad was 40 years old and was passing the month in meditation in Mount Hira, he had a vision of an angel that appeared before him. This angel told Muhammad his name was Jibril and said that Muhammad was the messenger of Allah and was born to be a prophet to his people. Allah gave Muhammad the teachings of the Qur’an{5} and sent him on his way to becoming the prophet of Islam.

What is Ramadan Like Today?

Ramadan is a time for plenty of social interaction because Muslims tend to invite each other over to  break their fast before dawn or after sunset or they may go to the mosque to meet and pray. A typical Muslim family usually rises about 5:00 a.m. before dawn and eats a modest, breakfast-like meal called suhur. After, they perform their morning prayer, the family will either go back to bed or begin their day. Since the days are longer in the summer it is beneficial and usual to take a nap in the late afternoon after work or school. At sunset, they break their fast with a few dates and water. This is referred to as iftar which means “breaking the fast” in the Arabic language. After performing the sunset prayers, the family eats dinner. Most families then go to the mosque for the night prayer and a special Ramadan prayer called taraweeh. After completing their prayers, the families return home around 11:45 p.m. but the times may vary.

Eid al-Fitr

When Ramadan concludes, Muslims celebrate one of their major holidays called Eid al-Fitr{6} and it lasts for three days the day after Ramadan concludes. Children usually get new clothes, money or gifts from parents, relatives and friends. A special prayer and sermon are held the morning of Eid al-Fitr. After that a community celebration usually takes place in a park or a big hall. Presents, food, games etc. for the children are important parts of the festivities while friends and family tend to spend the day eating, socializing and reuniting with old friends. It reminds me of Easter for Christians because lent is a time when we try to abstain from a certain food or bad habit and then Easter is a time to celebrate and eat candy and so on.

Other Values/Facts

To fast during the holy month of Ramadan is the fourth of one of the Five Pillars of Islam{7} so obviously it is very important and one of their biggest holidays. It is believed that during this month the gates of hell are closed and the gates of heaven are always open. I would infer that if you die during this time, it would feel more secure that you would go to heaven. An important aspect of Ramadan is charity. The fasting portion puts emphasis on self-sacrifice and because they are experiencing the hunger themselves it is easier to have empathy for the hungry and poor. During Ramadan, Muslim communities are more charitable and work together to raise money for the poor, donate clothes and food, and hold iftar dinners for the less fortunate. It reminds me of the charitable feeling in the air around the time of Christmas for Christians.

The Economic Effect of Ramadan

To accommodate the month long process of Ramadan, businesses in many Muslim countries let their employees have less working hours. In the United Arab Emirates the work day is legally shortened two hours and in 2012, the Minister of Labor imposed a country-wide ban on outdoor work between noon and three o'clock to protect fasting laborers from greater impact to heat stress. There is one word that truly covers the economic struggle of Ramadan and that is “slowdown” which just means that less work is done and at a slower rate. It is suggested that productivity goes down 35-50% during the month of Ramadan due to the shift in their lifestyle and shorter working hours.

{1}-Islamic places of worship

{2}- Ramadan in Arabic translates to scorching heat or dryness

{3}- Insulting, cursing, back talking, lying etc.

{4}- Festival of the Breaking of the Fast

{5}- Holy scriptures that the Muslims recite and worship

{6}- Known as Laylat al-Qadr or the “Night of Power”

{7}- The framework of the Muslim life

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