What is Ramadan?

Islam is the second largest religion in the world. Although there are many Muslims, Islam is commonly stereotyped and misrepresented in the media and throughout society. One of the many practices that people who are not Muslim do not understand is the month of Ramadan. 

Ramadan originally meant “great heat,” an image taken from the pre-Islamic solar calendar. This month was sacred in the pre-Islamic Arabic tradition and was a month of truce. Certainly, the month of Ramadan is the month of abstinence, the month when one deprives oneself of food, among other things.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it is known as ‘the holy month of fasting.’ In Islam, there are 5 pillars that every Muslim must abide by: Shahada, prayer, fasting, charity, and Hajj. The pillar of fasting is in reference to the month of Ramadan when Muslims should abstain from eating and drinking, as well as other activities and behaviors, from dawn to sunset.

Ramadan is extremely important for all Muslims as it is one of the 5 pillars of Islam but it is also one of the holiest months for Muslims. During this month, Muslims get closer to God through prayer and contemplation. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and self-improvement for Muslims to remind them of their dependence on Allah, as well as to give them compassion and empathy for those who are less fortunate than them. Not only do Muslims need to fast during the month of Ramadan, but they must also pray and give charity.   

In between dawn and sunset in the month of Ramadan, Muslims cannot eat food, drink, chew gum, smoke, engage in sexual activity, and must refrain from swearing or lying. How do Muslims get through the day without eating or drinking, you may ask? They wake up right before dawn to eat Suhoor, the meal before starting to fast. After the sun has set, Muslims can eat and engage in all the activities they could not do while fasting. In Islam, there are also exceptions and circumstances where a Muslim should not fast during the month of Ramadan. For example, when a woman is pregnant or on her menstrual cycle she should not have to fast, when someone is sick, when taking medication, when travelling, the elderly, and anytime fasting puts someone’s health at risk. 

The purpose of the month of Ramadan is that mankind can take benefit of the merits and blessings contained within to change themselves for the better and by doing so create a bond with Allah that will continue throughout the eleven remaining months.

It is a month within which Allah has instructed those of the Muslim faith to place more emphasis on actions regarding their faith as opposed to their daily routine and emphasis on worldly matters.

اللهم بارك لنا في رجب وشعبان وبلغنا رمضان
“O Allah, make the months of Rajab and Sha’ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadan.”

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