Ramadan (624- ) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is when most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset by not eating or drinking or having sex. It is one of the five pillars or duties of Islam.
In 2016 Ramadan runs from about June 6th to July 5th on the Gregorian calendar. The Muslim year is some 354 days long, so next year Ramadan will start sooner on the Gregorian calendar, about May 27th. I keep saying “about” because in many places the actual day depends on sighting the first crescent moon of the month.
Eid al-Fitr is the day after Ramadan. It is the Muslim counterpart to Christmas: people get together with family, eat big meals, give gifts, wear new clothes, and so on. It can go on for up to three days.
Iftar is the light meal you eat after sunset, like maybe some fruit juice and dates or a soup. That can be followed by prayers and then a larger meal.
Laylat al-Qadr was the night of Ramadan when the angel Gabriel began to tell Muhammad the Koran. Sunni Muslims observe it on the 27th, Shias on the 23rd. It is why Ramadan is a holy month.
Ramadan is harder in the summers because the days are longer and hotter. In places like Britain and the US, it can mean 16 to 19 hours without food or water. The new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim, says the thing he will miss most is his coffee!
Not everyone has to fast. If you are too old or too young (pre-puberty), you do not have to. If you are ill, menstruating, pregnant, travelling, fighting in a jihad or have some other good excuse, you can make up any missed days later in the year.
Other activities: Not smoking, chewing gum, dancing or playing music can be part of the fast. People are more likely to dress modestly, pray, read the Koran and go to mosque. The Koran has been divided into 30 parts so that you can hear or read the whole thing in the course of the month. Towards the end of the month, you are supposed to give to those in need if you are able.
In Muslim-majority countries, schools and businesses often close early. Because everyone eats iftar at the same time, it can lead to bad traffic. There are special Ramadan dishes and television shows. In Egypt people decorate their houses with lanterns. In Dubai, night clubs are closed. Even MTV Middle East took part by not playing music during the day.
In Xinjiang, China it is the other way round: government workers, teachers and students are not allowed to fast! It is part of the Chinese persecution of Uighurs.
On Tumblr some non-Muslims mark posts that have bad language, nudity, sex, kissing, food or drink with #NSFR – the Ramadan version of #NSFW.
Benefits: Ramadan helps Muslims to feel as one, to get closer to God, and to have a clearer, less materialistic view of life. That comes from the shared fasting.
– Abagond, 2016.
- Gregorian calendar
- The incomplete list of children Obama has killed with drones – Obama sends drones during Ramadan