I find cultures fascinating. Understanding a culture’s customs is key to appreciation. When I first started fasting and/or praying for Ramadan and the Muslim peoples and cultures, I needed to know what and why. Very few people with whom I have talked are able to tell me what Ramadan is.
Ramadan is actually the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Since Muslims follow a lunar calendar, instead of our solar calendar, Ramadan is at a slightly different time each year, approximately 10-12 days earlier each year. The first time I fasted for Ramadan was in a November. Ramadan 2019 started on May 6.
As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, it is a 40-day month of fasting (sawm) in honor of the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. It is a time of reflecting on the Quran, and many Muslims read through the Quran’s 6,236 verses (as compared to 31,102 verses of the Bible).
It is obligatory for adults to fast except for certain conditions: illness, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating, elderly, chronically ill, or diabetic. It is considered an honor to be “adult enough” to be permitted to fast.
I find it fascinating that it is not a complete fast, but fasting from dawn until sunset. When you look out your window and can see the outline of the tree against the night sky, it is time to fast. You neither eat nor drink water (not even swallowing your own saliva) until sunset. This is determined by being so dark that you cannot see the outline of the tree against the night sky. Then you may feast.
This is a time for reflection, doing good deeds, increased offerings of salat (prayers), and charity. It is a time for refraining from sinful behavior of speech such as backbiting, lying, cursing, fighting (except in self-defense). Spiritual rewards are increased during Ramadan, visions, dreams, prayers answered, as believers come closer to Allah.
After sunset, they break the fast with a sip of water and some dates. After sunset prayers, they gather with friends and family for the evening feast called “iftar.”
My dear friend and student Aliyah shared, “As a Muslim, I fast Ramadan because it is a requirement; it strengthens one’s faith. Ramadan is a time when Muslims come together and feed those in need. It’s a time when spiritual reflection occurs, enhancement, and expand devotion and worship. Fasting also serves the motive of cleansing inner soul and freeing it from harm. Furthermore, this month is distinguished as a way to practice patience and break bad habits. Not to mention it’s the fourth Pillar of Islam.”
So, though we are different in our practices of our various religions, we can learn to appreciate the finer elements, looking for the good qualities as we greet one another with “Ramadan Mubarak.” Then answer, “Thank you, and Ramadan Mubarak to you, too.” ■
— Loraine Joy is a small business owner and Arbuckle resident. Contact Loraine at firstname.lastname@example.org.