The holy month of Ramadan starts this week, either on Thursday or Friday depending on whether or not a community follows the calculated date from Saudi Arabia or waits to see the moon. If you’re not a Muslim, this probably makes very little sense.
So let me explain. Ramadan, the month where Muslims fast for 29 to 30 days, like all Islamic months, is based off of the lunar calendar. Many Muslims start Ramadan by following Saudi Arabia, which uses a calculated date to keep as many Muslims on the same page as possible. Others, like my family and community, wait to see the moon before starting our fasts like the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to do.
The Hub’s own writer, Jay has written an awesome FAQ article about Ramadan, so I won’t go into too much detail about how Ramadan works. I encourage you to read through Jay’s article for more technical information.
Like Jay, I make resolutions for Ramadan. I stop listening to music that isn’t religious, try to read the entire Qu’ran, which I managed last year because my commute was so long (phone apps are the best), stop cursing or talking badly about others no matter how much they annoy me, and generally try to be a better person.
Though I generally don’t listen to music that has curse words or has very “inappropriate” content, by only listening to religious music or prayers I am staying much more connected to Allah. Additionally, reading the Qu’ran is a very blessed act and during the month of Ramadan is especially so.
Since I don’t really have my own income to donate through zakat, which means “charity” in Arabic, I help my family go through all of our many belongings and donate as many clothes and other items as possible each summer. Usually, the head of the household and/or anyone who actually has a disposable income will donate 2.5% of their income each year.
There’s also the Zakat-al-Fitr, which is the charity given at the end of Ramadan. Fitr, which means to break the fast, is also used to signify the end of Ramadan and the resulting celebration and the holiday is called Eid-al-Fitr.
Ramadan is about reconnecting oneself to Islam and God, but can also be used as a time to reconnect to family and friends. After all, most people (who are able) end up seeing friends and family in the evenings to break the fast, or on the weekends at mosques. My own masjid does a potluck iftar Friday to Sunday and last summer even extended the fasts halfway through the week.
This allows all the aunties who have worked all day to take a break from cooking large meals for sehoor (the before dawn meal), and everyone gets to spend time together. Potlucks can also happen between groups of friends and are a great way to reach out to <href=”#Islam”>reverts (those who have returned to Islam) who may not have family or others who they can perform Ramadan with. For those of us who are lucky enough, Ramadan allows family members and friends to get together, sometimes, for the first time in months.
Of course not everyone has family they might want to spend time with, so if you know someone who may be isolated during Ramadan, it’s especially a good time to reach out to them.
While fasting from food, drink, bad behavior, sex, smoking, etc. are all a great part of Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr is one of my favorite parts of the Islamic year and my favorite holiday in general.
In the morning, everyone showers and prays the regular fajr prayer. After eating a very small amount of sweet or breakfast food, we all go to the local mosque or civic center (if there is a huge prayer being held) and pray behind the imam. Afterwards, there is a day (or three depending on where one lives) of celebration with friends, family, and other loved ones.
After a month of fasting from heavy foods, we all celebrate by eating our favorite dishes and spending time with people we may not have seen in a long time.
I hope those of you participating in Ramadan have an easy and blessed month, and for those of you who have friends participating in fasting, ask them if you can try it out too!