Ramadan - the month of blessings and giving
Ramadan is a much revered and blessed month for Muslims all over the world, it is one of the five pillars of Islam which Muslims regard very highly.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, and is regarded as a very special month as the Quran (Holy Book) was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed pbuh during Ramadan.
Muslims fast for 29/30 days – this can vary each year, depending on the lunar calendar. Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new moon and falls 10/11 days earlier each year. This year Ramadan will be starting in the summer again, and due to the long hot days this will bring its challenges and pleasures.
Muslims’ fasts consist of nothing passing the lips i.e.no food/water (including no smoking) from sunrise to sunset. There follows a great deal of excitement awaiting the announcement of the sighting of the moon as people rush to buy various foods to prepare sahoor (closing of the fast) and iftari (opening of the fast). When the moon is sighted, people contact each other and greet one another by saying Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem, which means have a blessed and generous month of Ramadan.
I remember when I was younger my mum lifting her hands up to pray to ask God Allah to make it an easy month of fasting for all the Muslims around the world as this is a testing time of self-control, mind over body. I have lots of fond memories of delicious foods that would be prepared in Ramadan and the distinct taste and smell of the Rooh Afza drink (rose water syrup), which is commonly drunk as it is refreshing to quench thirst. Of the typical foods cooked in Ramadan I remember having pakoras, kebabs, samosas as snacks followed by a meal in later in the evening. As a child I always looked forward to fasting, however wasn’t quite able to fast all of them and may have fasted half days to introduce myself to fasting.
Now that I am an adult, Ramadan for me is a time of self-reflection and being thankful for what I have in my life, even if this is not a lot. It is a time of togetherness with family and uniting as a community all around the world to celebrate this blessed month. It is also a time to think about others who are less fortunate than me who may be going without food, clean water all year round. Ramadan is also about obedience and worshiping God which lifts me spiritually and makes me feel calmer and relaxed both mentally and physically. Another physical benefit can be seen when you stand to pray as some of the actions are similar to that of yoga, which improves your physical health.
Fasting is also seen and proven as being healthy for the human body, I remember watching a documentary which explained the benefits of intermittent fasting; some of the benefits included losing weight and body fat, helps reduce Insulin resistance, lowering your risk of type 2 Diabetes and decreasing heart disease.
There is flexibility within the religion as there are exemptions from fasting such as when people have a long term illness; old age; and women who are pregnant or breast feeding. People who cannot fast are expected to make up for their fast at a later date however if a person’s illness is chronic then they have to pay or provide food for a needy person.
During Ramadan I tend to follow the examples set by the prophet Mohammed pbuh by doing as many good deeds as i can to gain lots of reward and self-contentment. This can be seen when Muslims offer money to charity which known as their annual Zakat. This is also one of the five pillars of Islam and is an obligatory act which balances the system by giving a bit of your wealth to the poor, as a way of giving back to the wider community. Muslims will also share their food with neighbours family and friends, there is always lots of food in Ramadan to go around. However, it is always best not to overindulge and keep a balance to stay healthy and well.
Muslims are always sad when Ramadan ends as it is such a glorious month full of rewards and so sacred, however the beauty of it is that it ends with a joyous celebration of Eid Ul Fitr which lasts for 3 days.
Farzana, support worker Community Links