Last night, many Muslims all over the world received the exciting news that Ramadhan had started. I had spent the majority of the weekend having a spring clean in preparation; Mo went and braved the supermarket to stock up the cupboards and we spent an evening discussing plans and goals and catching up with friends, knowing that once fasting starts, our priorities will be elsewhere.
So, now its here! And every year without fail, we get asked pretty much the same questions… which by the way, is great, people should always ask questions! Muslims have a pretty hard time in the press these days so the more people ask questions, the more we can help change the perception of our religion.
I thought I’d try and answer some of the most common:
What exactly is Ramadhan??
Ramadhan is a month in the Islamic calendar, its the ninth month and considered to be the holiest one of them all.
The Holy Book of Islam, the Quran, was revealed to our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and its a time when every good deed is multiplied and every prayer is that bit more special.
What is fasting?
As a Muslim, there are five pillars of our religion which are compulsory – fasting is one of them.
The word Fasting in Arabic, “sawm” means to refrain. So during daylight hours, between sunrise and sunset, no food or drink is to be consumed. Not only food and drink, but any actions or behaviour that is bad for you or your soul such as smoking, back-biting, foul language etc.
For those of us in the UK, we stop eating at about 3am and we break fast at half 9 at night (there are exact timings but it differs very slightly depending on your region). So that’s around 18 hours in total!
Why do we fast? What’s it all for?
Although the act of fasting is physical one, it’s actually a mental challenge more than anything. Fasting shouldn’t mean you retreat from daily activities, lock yourself at home and sleep all day. The whole purpose is to understand patience, endurance and through feeling a small sample of what the less fortunate in this world have to go through, it should increase our generosity.
It’s a month of reflection, one to discover yourself without having to travel anywhere and a time to share and celebrate with others. Every night the mosques will host the Tarawih prayers, which will see them overflowing in most cases as men and women take advantage of spending more time as a community, praying in congregation.
When is it? Why does it change?
As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the date shifts slightly every year. The month of Ramadhan starts on the sighting of the crescent moon.
No food and no drink?!? Surely that’s bad for you?
Well no, not really. We are still eating and drinking every day and so as long as we eat healthily and drink plenty of fluid, its all good.
In fact, many doctors have spoken about the benefits of fasting. After a few days your body starts to break down toxins, so the whole process is like a detox (provided you’re not feasting on unhealthy dinners).
Anyone who is sick or has medical issues is not expected to fast, in fact it is discouraged. Our religion is all about looking after yourself physically, mentally and spiritually – so if fasting is somehow doing your body harm then you shouldn’t be doing it.
Today, is day one and although the hunger and thirst has not been an issue, the small task of trying to stay awake has been very challenging, especially since this heat wave decided to drop in! The last part of the day was pretty tough, but I’ve survived.
Luckily, I managed to get a number of blog posts finished beforehand, but you may find the blog looks a bit sparse this month, not just because working full time whilst fasting will have me pretty exhausted by the end of the day, but I’d also like to savour my free time and use it to learn more about Islam.
So if you’re a brother/sister who is fasting this month, stay strong! And embrace it – I’ll be trying my best to.
If you’re not, but know someone who is, wish them a Happy Ramadhan or say ‘Ramadhan Mubarak’ – translates as have a blessed Ramadhan, it’ll mean a lot to them.
I know a lot of people feel bad eating, drinking, even discussing food in front of someone who is fasting, but the majority of us Muslims have been doing this for years (I started when I was early teens) so yes our tummies might be a lot more vocal over the next few weeks, but this is the one month where our minds can overpower it. So don’t worry, personally I still like to talk about what I’m having for dinner (albeit my dinner will probably be four hours after yours!).
You will find some of us don’t like getting too close this month – one word – halitosis. We know it, we get it, we can’t help it. I usually find my hands get a lot busier when I communicate to try and minimise the amount of talking I do.
It’s now getting pretty late and I’ve only got a few hours before I’m up again so I suppose I should try and sleep.
Once again Ramadhan Mubarak! I wish you all the best in this blessed month 🙂
Please feel free to fire any other questions in the comments below, I’ll try my best to answer, or at least find someone who can.
If you’re a Muslim blogger, let me know if you’re writing about fasting, I’d love to read how you’re doing!