What is it?
Ramadan is a holy month consisting of fasting, introspection, and prayer. It is the ninth month of the 12-month Islamic calendar. Muslims have to try to avoid impure thoughts and behaviour during this holiday. Muslim is the second biggest religion in the world! As a 2015 study reads, there are about 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. That’s roughly twenty-four percent of the world population. That’s a lot of people and most take part in Ramadan. The holiday is supposed to be a peaceful and eye opening month. Muhammad once 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.”
On the ninth month, in 610 AD, Muhammad was meditating in Mount Hira when he envisioned an angel before him. The angel presented himself as Jibril, and he told Muhammad that he was to be the messenger of Allah ( the Muslim God). Muhammad was given the teachings of the Qur’an and he was sent to be the Prophet of Islam. A prophet is a person “regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God”. In 622, Muhammad and his followers were later persecuted by the Quraysh. Muslims were persecuted for many reasons. One was that Muhammad was preaching about greed at a time when Mecca was doing well, and the Quraysh thought his teachings would tamper with trade. Another reason was that the Quraysh enjoyed the high status of their forefathers and they did not want to become different from them. They were very arrogant. Because of the Quraysh, Muhammad and his followers were forced to flee to Mecca.
How is it celebrated?
Ramadan is celebrated in many ways; however, there is one way of which it is celebrated that happens to be the most accepted. They, the Muslims, follow something called the Five Pillars of Islam. What are they? The Five Pillars of Islam is basically the makeup of Muslim life. The Pillars are the testimony of faith, prayer, giving Zakat, fasting, and Hajj. Most Muslims take part of these pillars.
Testimony of Faith
The testimony of faith is the understanding that there is no other God but Allah. It’s also understanding that Muhammad is the messenger or Prophet of God. The basic statement of the Islamic faith is “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Anyone who cannot recite this wholeheartedly, is seen as not a real Muslim. This isn’t to just be done during Ramadan.
Muslims pray five times a day. Prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. They can pray almost anywhere. When praying, Muslims are to face Mecca. They pray on the ground, usually with their arms on the ground too. The Muslim is supposed to find happiness, peace, and comfort in talking to or confiding in Allah.
Giving Zakat is “giving a specified percentage on certain properties to certain classes of needy people” So, it’s giving to charity. A person can give any amount they wish to people in need. The meanings of Zakat are “purification” and “growth”. Zakat is sometimes compared to taxes, but it’s different from the taxes imposed by governments. It’s a spiritual duty for the sake of their God, Allah. By taking part in Zakat, the Muslims ensure that their wealth has been purified for the will of Allah.
What is fasting? Fasting is abstaining from all forms of food and drinks. This practice is a religious observance. The Muslims cut themselves off from worldly comforts. By doing this, it allows them to feel sympathy for the less fortunate. By fasting, Muslims are supposed to gain “growth” in their spiritual life. Muslims feel like fasting is a powerful way to purify oneself. Fasting takes place from dawn until sundown. There are some exceptions to which people do not have to fast. If they are sick, pregnant, breastfeeding, senility and old age, intense hunger or thirst, or compulsion. Compulsion means one person forcing another to do something or not to do something against his will. The person usually threatens the other, making them feel powerless, so they abide.There is something that Muslims are also supposed to stay away from during ramadan. They are not to have any sexual relations whatsoever during this spiritual time. Fasting is broken by eating dates.
Pilgrimage to Mecca
The other pillar is the Hajj. What’s the Hajj? The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Mecca is a desert valley in Saudi Arabia. It’s Islam’s holiest city. It’s the holiest place, because the Prophet Muhammad was born there. Mecca was declared a pilgrimage site by Muhammad in 630. The Hajj is mandatory for everyone that is both physically and financially able to participate. Muslims are supposed to go the minimum of one time in their lifetime. During the Hajj, Muslims are to go around the Ka’bah a total of seven times, as Hagar had done during her search for water. The Ka’bah is a building at the center of Islam’s most sacred mosque. Muslims go to Mecca to restore their sense of purpose in the world. The Hajj is the fifth and final Pillar of Islam!
Clothing for Hajj
What do Muslims wear during Hajj? They wear Ihram clothing. Muslims focus on simplicity, because they try to avoid attracting attention to themselves. Men wear clothing consisting of two unhemmed sheets, a belt, and sandals. However, women don’t all wear the same clothes. It varies considerably and reflects regional and religious influences. They often don’t wear special clothing. Also, they don’t have to cover their faces up. All men taking part in the Hajj wear the same thing. They dress the same to hide their class and wealth. During this time, they are all to be on the same level, equal. Allah does not see the difference between a prince and someone lower him when they’re wearing the same clothing. Wearing the same clothing also creates a strong feeling of unity among the many believers.
Eid al-Fitr is the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. It starts the day after Ramadan ends and lasts for three days. Eid al-Fitr includes special prayers and meals with friends and family. Gift exchanges are also encouraged. Infact, there’s a Muslim saying “tahaabu tahaadu”. The meaning behind it is, “give gifts to spread love to one another”.
Christian lent is similar to fasting in Ramadan. Both are personal spiritual reflections and involve fasting. Many Christians fast during lent, although it isn’t a universal Christian practice. The Bible does not talk about mandatory fasting during lent. Ramadan focuses on self-discipline, devotion to God, and generosity towards the needy. Lent focuses on penitence and preparation for Easter. Both lent and Ramadan end in joyous festivals. Lent ends in Easter, the resurrection and new life in Christ.Ramadan ends in Eid al-Litr, also called Fast Breaking. Both deal with self-sacrificial services and religious acts of purity. In the Bible, prophets like Moses, Daniel, and Jesus adopted fasting as a form of worship. It was seen as a way to communicate with God. The western religions that fast consists of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Judaism has several annual fast days, mostly on days of penitence like Yom Kippur (the day of Atonement) or mourning. It’s a safe assumption that fasting was widely accepted as a way to enhance self discipline, gain personal spiritual strength, and express love and worship to God.