Have you ever been to a kid’s birthday party? If you have, you might remember that right before everybody plunges into the celebration, the emcee or hosts asks an important question. “Who can tell me why we are here?” he or she might bellow over the microphone, and dozens of kids would scramble over themselves to answer. You, as an adult, might roll your eyes or chuckle, because the answer is everywhere- on the cake, on the banners, on the party packs. If you didn’t know anything that day, at least you knew why you were celebrating.
There is a big holiday coming up, and it is the Eid-el-Fitr (the end of Ramadan). This public holiday comes with the promise of two free working days, just before the weekend. In essence, that is four days of bliss. Every worker I know is looking forward to this holiday, but then the question on their lips is “when is Ramadan starting”? whereas the holiday marks the end of the Ramadan season. So, suffice it to say that, although we are all looking forward to this holiday, majority of us who are not Muslim, do not know what we are celebrating.
If you’re in that category, I’m at your service. Here are the basics in six easy-to-learn nuggets.
- Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and Muslims worldwide identify it as a period of fasting. The word ‘ramadan’ is derived from Arabic root ramida, which means scorching heat or dryness. During this period, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations; in some interpretations they also refrain from swearing. Afterwards, food and drink is served daily, before sunrise and after sunset.
- Ramadan is one of the five tenets (pillars) of Islam. Fasting is obligatory for all adult Muslims, except those who are ill, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or going through menstrual bleeding.
- Ramadan is significant because it is the month that Allah revealed the Koran to the Prophet, Muhammad. The last ten days of the fast are a time of special spiritual power and everyone tries to get closer to God through devotion and good deeds during this period.
- Ramadan does not always start on the same day. Hence, it is not unusual for a Muslim to not know the exact date it is supposed to end. This is because Ramadan is a lunar month, and begins roughly about 11 days earlier each year. During a Muslim’s life, Ramadan is expected to fall during both winter months, when the days are short, and summer months, when the days are long and the fast is more difficult.
- Muslims fast during Ramadan in order to help promote the virtues of self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity. It is a way of a way of giving the body a rest and cleansing it both physically and spiritually.
- This year, Ramadan ends in the evening of August 8th. The celebration at the end is called Eid-el-Fitr and it means ‘the festivity of breaking the fast. The fast is broken with morning prayers and is normally followed with feasting amongst family and friends.
There you have it. Ramadan Kareem!