Ramadan, a time of importance for your family, unity and community, is around the corner. A time of great importance to people all around the world, it includes fasting, prayer and acts of charity that help Muslims connect with Allah. But there are many questions. What is Ramadan and how is it celebrated? Why do Muslims fast? When does it take place? Let’s find out more.
Here, we will be answering 10 questions about Ramadan:
- What is Ramadan?
- When is Ramadan observed?
- Why do Muslims observe Ramadan?
- Is everyone expected to fast?
- Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?
- What actually happens during Ramadan?
- How can I share Ramadan with my community, even if they’re not Muslim?
- How can I celebrate Ramadan safely if Covid-19 restrictions are in place?
- What happens at the end of Ramadan?
- What are some gifts I can give people I care about to celebrate Eid?
1. What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a whole month of fasting. It involves abstaining from all things that are considered to be impure for the both the mind and the body — including food, drink and impure thoughts — between sunrise and sunset.
If someone you know is observing Ramadan, you can say Ramadan Kareem, (Have a generous Ramadan) or, Ramadan Mubarak (which can translate as Happy Ramadan) to show your support.
2. When is Ramadan observed?
The Islamic calendar is based around the lunar cycle, and is around ten or 11 days shorter each year.
Ramadan is observed in the during the 9th month of the lunar calendar, and the exact dates of Ramadan change by the same number of days every year.
This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on Tuesday, 13th April, but the official start depends on the first sighting of the new moon.
A timetable for Ramadan events in the UK can be found on the Islamic Relief website.
3. Why do Muslims observe Ramadan?
In short, Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims. It marks when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
4. Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?
Fasting — or Sawm — is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
It is considered to be one of the highest forms of Islamic worship because abstaining from earthly pleasures and curbing evil intentions and desire is regarded as an act of obedience and submission to God [30 Days of Prayer]. It’s also a way to make amends for sins, and mistakes.
During Ramadan, to accommodate fasting, many offices and schools in Muslim-majority countries shut early. This can even have an impact on the countries’ economies: inflation can be a side effect.
Unsurprisingly, 30 days of fasting is pretty tough. During Ramadan, Muslims must make physical and emotional allowances as the days start early. While fasting is a large part of observing Ramadan, Ramadan isn’t only about fasting. So, let’s find out even more.
5. Is everyone expected to fast?
While fasting is absolutely a priority, and something that Muslims take seriously, not everyone is able, or expected, to fast. Those who are exempt include:
- Anyone who is ill
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- People with diabetes
- Anyone who is traveling
6. What actually happens during Ramadan?
Typically, the first meal (called Sahur) is eaten at around 4:30 am and fasting begins when the sun rises. This is also when the first prayer of the day, Fajr, is offered.
The second and third prayers are offered during early and late afternoon, respectively.
According to 30 Days of Prayer, when a fasting Muslim feels hunger it’s an opportunity to remember the reasons for their fasting.
Ramadan is also a time when helping others is encouraged, both financially and emotionally. Ramadan is often known as the month of charity and generosity and many believe that a reward earned during this month is worth 70 times more than a reward at any other time.
At sunset, the fast is allowed to be broken, often with a meal of dates as recommended by The Prophet Muhammed. Breaking the fast is a communal affair and it is known as an iftar party.
Next, the fourth daily prayer is offered, and then dinner is enjoyed.
After dinner, Muslims traditionally go to the mosque, to offer the final prayer of the day: Isha. And the day ends with a special voluntary prayer called the Taraweeh, which is offered by the congregation who recite the Qur’an.
These rituals happen every day, for 30 days.
7. How can I share Ramadan with my community, even if they’re not Muslim?
The Muslim Council of Britain has some brilliant ideas of how you can share Ramadan with your local community, especially if many of them are non-Muslim. Some suggestions:
- Put a Ramadan banner on your front door to let your neighbours know that you’re observing Ramadan
- During Ramadan, offer to help your neighbours — especially those who are elderly, shielding, or at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 — with any shopping or other errands.
- Contact your local newspaper or news website and ask them to publish information about Ramadan to raise awareness in the community.
- Encourage your children to chat to their friends about what Ramadan is.
- Take the initiative to talk about what Ramadan means to you with colleagues or classmates, even if you’re working or studying from home.
8. How to celebrate Ramadan safely if Covid-19 restrictions are in place
The hashtag #SafeRamadan is also being used to encourage communities to follow local Covid-19 restrictions. You may not be able to visit your Mosque in person, but there are a number of ways you can stay connected from home if necessary:
- Use online platforms like Zoom to connect with your community – you can livestream Islamic sermons or taraweeh straight to your home, or access plenty of pre-recorded services too. You can arrange virtual Iftars with your extended family and the wider Muslim community and use these platforms to listen to the maghrib adhan or break your fasts together. It could be a great opportunity to connect with people who live further away.
- While it may not be quite the same, you can use this time to involve your family and your social bubble by organising prayers at home. The National Huffadh Association UK has a toolkit you can download in order to help you make the Taraweeh experience more fun for the whole family.
- Planning your iftar menus in advance will mean you can keep your family safe by making less trips to the supermarket.
- Make sure you eat and drink enough when you are able to. Dehydration can lead to tiredness, headaches, lack of focus and concentration. High energy, slow burn foods are important to keep you energised throughout the day. This will also help ward off anxiety during these times.
- Finally, take regular breaks to reflect, and make sure you take some time out for yourself.
9. What happens at the end of Ramadan?
During the final ten days of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the Laylat Al Qadr, which is the holiest night of the year. It commemorates the night that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
At the end of the month, two things happen.
Firstly, Zakat donations are made. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a form of obligatory charity. The word ‘Zakat’ means ‘to cleanse,’ and by paying it, Muslims believe they are purified, and that the remainder of their wealth is blessed. [Islamic Relief]
Secondly, Eid al-Fitr — a time of feasting and celebration in which gifts are exchanged — is celebrated. On Eid-al-fitr, the greeting changes to Eid Mubarak.
10. What are some gifts I can give to celebrate Eid al-Fitr?
We know how hard it can be during festivals when you’re not at home with friends and loved ones. Since you may be unable to visit this year, here are some ideas for how you can show your love and appreciation for them while you’re not together:
- Send them a luxury Halal hamper
- Buy a bespoke Eid present from Noorah’s Gifts
- Treat them to a piece of beautiful personalised Arabic jewellery from Rehmania
- Or, you can always send money if you’re not sure what to buy. It's a great option as it lets them buy themselves something they really want.
You might not be able to travel to see your family abroad this year. With Small World, you can still send them support and show your love.