This Monday may be a bank holiday, but this year another holiday is taking place on the same day. Eid al-Fitr (festival of breaking the fast) will be celebrated by Muslims all around the world as the month of Ramadan comes to an end.
But what is Ramadan? Here, KOREC’s Digital Marketing Apprentice Ikra Taj educates us on Ramadan, and what it means to her.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and every year the start date varies and is decided at the sighting of the moon. It is a religious ceremony that marks the 30 days in which the Quran (Holy book of Islam) was revealed to our last prophet. This month is possibly the most anticipated month of the Islamic calendar; a month that Muslims across the globe yearn and crave to see again. During Ramadan Muslims spend an entire month fasting from sunset to sunrise, this means we cannot eat or drink anything from sunset to sunrise. Aside from fasting Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, to help those in need and to spend time with loved ones.
Every year I often get asked the same questions around fasting. There’s always the interest of how we observe this sacred month and then there’s the shock of how intense the requirements of fasting are:
“So you can’t eat anything from sunset to sunrise?!”
“Not even water?!”
“I could never do that!”
I understand it does sound pretty full on but the reality is Ramadan is doable and so rewarding. It is even scientifically proven that intermittent fasting has multiple health benefits. However, we don’t fast because God wants us to starve, instead it’s a time to empty our stomachs and feed our souls.
Fasting is compulsory for all Muslims although there are some exemptions, some are exempt from fasting due to illnesses, pregnancy or old age. In these cases, If the individual is not able to make up these fasts at a later date, they must feed one poor person for each fast missed.
Ramadan is something I’ve always observed since a young age. For me it is a time of quiet reflection and self-discipline; I like to pray, recite the Quran and give extra charity during this month to better myself and improve my character. It’s also a time where I am conscious of my actions more so than on a typical day as I want to be rewarded by God for the good I do in this month.
In my younger years Ramadan for me often used to be a challenge, all I thought about was food and often I spent my days counting down the hours to sunset so I could eat. Luckily this has changed! As I’ve grown older I normally overcome the effects of fasting within the first few days, the body does adjust fairly fast and although I miss my guilty pleasures the feeling of fasting makes me so much happier.
Instead of having food on my mind I make the effort to spend more time with my family, prepare meals for my loved ones and increase my remembrance of God. Working from home also has its benefits as I am able to preserve my energy by not traveling or walking around much. It also helps when working in an environment where those around you care and help you through this month, the little things like getting checked up on by work colleagues during my working day always brings a smile to my face and makes this month that much more amazing. So a special thank you to Stuart and Harriet who have looked after me well and been so understanding, I appreciate you!
As a small cake business owner my days are always busy with a high influx of orders coming in, from everyone wanting to gift their friends and family edible gifts to celebrate Ramadan. I love this part, as my spare time is spent doing what I love and bringing smiles to faces.
So the question remains why do we fast in Ramadan?
Firstly, it is one of the pillars of Islam (obligatory acts Muslims must carry out). The Quran also states those who believe must fast. Fasting has been a way of those way before us and its intention is to make us more conscious of our Lord. When we see our physical intake of blessings i.e. food being taken away from us we instantly become more mindful of who bestowed those blessings upon us. This makes us grateful and In turn helps us live positively and do good. As well as withholding food we must stay away from using bad language, smoking, immoral acts and anger.
When a Muslim predecessor once asked “why is fasting instituted?” It was replied by “so that the rich will taste hunger and thus will not forget the hungry”. Through the experience of fasting we gain a greater depth of understanding for those who have little or no food, this helps us to have more empathy. Therefore, during Ramadan Muslims push to be charitable by donating to charities and feeding the less fortunate.
What may surprise some is that Muslims enjoy Ramadan so much that they grieve when it comes to an end. We come to the realisation that true happiness is in feeding the soul and being satisfied with your sustenance, that prayer is better than sleep and that charity is better than consumption.