What is Ramadan, you ask?
Let me answer your question with another question. What would you think if someone told you not to eat for most of the day?
You’d probably think you could do that. It’s not that big of a deal to go 8-10 hours with no food.
Alright, now what if you were told you couldn’t drink anything either? No water, no milk, no soda. Nothing.
You might be a little upset about that one. It’s not easy to go for hours on end without any liquids. Especially if you live in hot and humid climates.
Now here’s the kicker. What if you couldn’t have sex either?
“Are you crazy?”
“No sex? No way!”
Well, Muslims have been ordered to leave all of these things behind every day for thirty days, once a year. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is different from the fasts of other faiths. Muslims do not just abstain from all foods. We must also leave off drinking, smoking (which is forbidden anyway), and sexual relations from dawn till sunset.
I’m sure some of you, if you’re not Muslim, probably think this is crazy. Why would anyone deliberately go hungry and submit themselves to such hardship? And why would they do it so willingly?
Because, in spite of the difficulties of fasting during Ramadan, there are several benefits. The most important benefit is obtaining the pleasure of Allah. Fasting is beloved by Allah because it is one of the few actions that are done only for His pleasure.
But there are other benefits as well. The month of Ramadan brings untold blessings and rewards for Muslims. Some of these rewards are reserved for the next life. However, some of them can be seen in this life also.
There is an increased feeling of community, love, and brotherhood during Ramadan. People who suffer together tend to feel more affinity for one another. Also, Muslims very often break the fast together which increases the love as the hardship ends and we rejoice in the sustenance provided by Allah.
Prophet Mohammad has encouraged us to be more generous and caring during the month of Ramadan also. During this time, more than any other time of the year, Muslims generally are very giving towards one another and those less fortunate. Fasting during Ramadan, like the Muslim prayer and Zakah, is one of the five pillars of Islam.
In addition to this universal generosity amongst Muslims, Ramadan is also the time when we usually prepare to pay the Zakah. While Muslims are always encouraged to give freely to those in need, Zakah is a yearly poor tax that must be paid on our excess wealth.
There is one more benefit that comes during this blessed month. Prophet Muhammad has stated that the devils and evil jinn are locked up during Ramadan. With these guys out the picture, it is much easier for us to focus on performing good deeds and avoiding evil.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. In Islam, the new month is determined by the spotting of the new moon. Thereafter, the month of Ramadan, like all of the Islamic months, may last for 29 or thirty days depending on when the next new moon is spotted.
Every day during this month, Muslims wake up before Fajr, the dawn prayer. We take one final small meal called Suhur, before the sky begins to brighten. After that, there’s no eating or drinking until Maghrib, the sunset prayer.
Muslims should break their fast with water or dates, since this was the practice of Prophet Muhammad, may Allah be pleased with him. This small meal is called iftar, and should be taken before praying. After that, we can continue to eat and drink as much as we like until dawn.
It should go without saying, that abstaining from food and drink and sex would be useless if we are not behaving accordingly. Fasting helps a person gain control over their desires and weaknesses. Therefore, it is also important that a Muslim refrains from evil speech, cursing, cheating, lying, and other sinful actions.
Ramadan is also the month in which the Laylatul Qadar, or the Night of Power takes place. The Night of Power is the best night of the year, and is equivalent to a thousand months.
Therefore, any good we do during this night will be like we did it for a thousand normal months. No one is certain of the exact date of the Night of Power, but we do know that is one of the last ten days of the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is not a holiday. Muslims only have two real holidays, those being Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha. The first holiday, Eid ul Fitr, means the celebrations of the break fast and commemorates the end of Ramadan.
Eid ul Adha commemorates the Hajj pilgrimage to the Kaaba. For both holidays, Muslims gather to pray, then we feast, and may also exchange gifts and give charity.
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