What is Ramadan and why is it important to Muslims?
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats
Ramadan (or Ramzan) is the ninth month in the Islamic Calendar and this year will start around the 5th May and will end around the 4th June.
Ramadan lasts for 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the moon. During this period, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, meaning they do not consume food or drink and abstain from smoking and sexual relations.
Fasting is obligatory for adult Muslims. However, those that are travelling, pregnant or breastfeeding and those with severe illnesses are not required to fast. However, those who are unable to fast at the time, are required to make up the fasts that are missed later, when they can do so. In the instance of long-term medical illness, money can be given to the poor instead of fasting.
During Ramadan, before dawn, Muslims eat a pre-fast meal known as 'sehri' and at sunset, the fast-breaking meal is known as 'Iftari'. Traditionally, the fast is broken by eating dates and it has been said that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to break his fast with three dates.
It is often wrongly noted that Islam promotes violence and hatred of others. In fact, the teachings of Ramadan (and Islam) are based around love, respect and giving to others.
During Ramadan, families and friends sit together at Iftari time to enjoy the opening of fast. In the UK, common foods eaten at Iftari time include samosas, kebabs and onion bajis. With such popular foods, those that think they will lose weight in Ramadan are often left disappointed.
Ramadan is also a time for Muslims to offer more prayers and for families to come together. It is also a time when Muslims are asked to give even more to the poor and those less of in society. It is a time when communities come together, whether that is being sat around the same table or whether it's praying together in the masjid (mosque).
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the acts that are the foundation of Muslim life. It is an act of worship and a way to become more compassionate to those in need, as well as for the individual to become closer to God. It is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar and is a time for more prayers, Quran readings and recitations and increased charitable acts.
Ramadan is a time when communities come together.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitar.
It is often wrongly noted that Islam promotes violence and hatred of others. In fact, the teachings of Ramadan (and Islam) are based around love, respect and giving to others. That is why Muslims are encouraged in this month to give even more to those that are less off in the society. Being charitable to the poor and the needy is one of the most important teachings of Islam and a fixed amount must be given to the poor before Eid can be celebrated. This is known as 'Fitrana'.
Ramadan can be difficult as your normal routine of eating and sleeping is disturbed. However, as the days pass, it becomes easier and the sense of togetherness and doing good, overshadows the hunger and lack of sleep. I would certainly encourage non-Muslims to try and fast, even for a day.
Kamran Hussain is a practising Muslim and the Liberal Democrats PPC for Leeds North West