Ramadan: The holy month unveiled

There is both an excitement and renewed spiritual focus within Muslims, with the holy month of Ramadan only a day away now. Stomachs will rumble, sighs will be heard, as hunger and thirst pushes the fasting Muslim to the edge.

More than mere deprivation of all things luxurious and comforting, the act of daily fasting is one of worship and a spiritual act; it is also an act of social solidarity.

What is Ramadan?

It’s the holiest month of the Islamic Calendar (Hijri calendar), which began in 622AD when Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina. It’s the ninth month of the calendar when Muslims spend 30 days observing the fast. It is the month in which Muslims believe the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

When is Ramadan?

Depending on the sighting of the crescent moon, or hilal, the month begins this year on the evening of the Wednesday 17 June, which means Muslims will begin their first day of fasting at sunrise on Thursday 18 June.

So Muslims don’t eat for 30 days?

The fast takes place from sunrise to sunset each day, for 30 days, that is to say, during daylight hours only. Muslims don’t actually fast for 30 whole days in a row as that would be impossible.

Can you drink water?

No. No liquids whatsoever. In fact, no food, no drink, no smoking, no drugs, no sex, no bad language or bad behaviour whatsoever, from sunrise to sunset each day.

But doesn’t that damage your health?

Fasting, contrary to popular misconceptions, doesn’t damage your health. Vulnerable individuals – the sick, the elderly, children, pregnant women – are exempt from the requirement to fast.

There are many academic studies which show several health benefits arising from Ramadan-type fasting, such as lower cholesterol, loss of excessive fatty tissue or reduced anxiety.

Why does Ramadan keep changing the months it begins each year?

Since 622AD, and the time of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam has operated on a lunar calendar, with months beginning when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. As the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year and contains no leap days, etc, the date of Ramadan moves back through our calendar each year.

What is the significance of starving yourself for 30 days?

Ramadan is a deeply spiritual time for Muslims. By fasting, they cut themselves off from the distractions and temptations of busy, hectic, materialistic lives and try to gain closeness to God. The Quran describes the main purpose of the fast as to “attain taqwa”, or “God-consciousness”. Muslims use the fast to try to purify and cleanse their souls, and to ask forgiveness for their sins.

“We also learn self-restraint and become much more aware of the less fortunate people whom ‘fasting’ is not a choice; for whom hunger is part of daily life.

TNT News Yasin Chinembiri

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