Ramadan

Introduction

Fasting is one of the central means of spiritual advancement taught by Islam. Muslims are encouraged to observe voluntary fasts throughout the year, however, during Ramadan, the entire month is devoted to making a special effort in spiritual progress, primarily through fasting.

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon. As the Gregorian calendar, utilized as the standard of the world, is a solar calendar with approximately 365 days, whereas the lunar calendar year approximates to 354 days, the month of Ramadan moves back about 11 or 12 days each year.

The First Qur’anic Revelation

Ramadan is the month in which the founder of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (saw), received his first Qur’anic revelation, at the age of 40. Muslims, like the followers of all faiths, believe in the phenomenon of divine revelation as being a direct form of true communication between God and His servants. The piecemeal revelations of the Holy Qur’an, spanning 23 years of the life of Prophet Muhammad (saw), are considered the highest form of revelation to have ever been received by a prophet. Thus, there is a special emphasis upon reciting the Holy Qur’an and pondering over its deeper meanings during this month.

What do Muslims do in Ramadan?

The concept of fasting is found in variable forms throughout religious as well as secular history. The Islamic practice of fasting, on the most basic level, involves abstaining from food, water, and sex from dawn until sunset.

Muslims will wake up in the final hours of the night before dawn, to have Suhur (Arabic: lit. ‘pre-dawn meal’ ) and will then abstain from consuming anything until sunset, when they will end their fast by having Iftaar (Arabic: lit. ‘break of a fast’). One of the primary goals of fasting is to inculcate a sense of empathy for the impoverished who regularly do not have access to food. Thus, in addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to increase their charitable donations during this month, in order to serve as a reminder for how they should live the rest of the year as well.

Muslims are encouraged to increase their efforts in other elements of spirituality as well during this month. They should study the Holy Qur’an more, offer their daily prayers with deeper focus and intensity, express more kindness to others, among other practices central to Islam. Ramadan is also a time for community gatherings, thus Muslims are taught to visit the mosque more during this month, where they pray side by side irrespective of socioeconomic status. This spirit of equality and brotherhood is extended during the communal Iftarmeal as well, where Muslims gather together to break their fast at the mosque.

Exemptions from Fasting: Children, patients, travellers, and others

The philosophy behind the practice of fasting is profound but at times poorly understood by the public, who can often hold many misunderstandings regarding it. The primary misconception is that fasting is prescribed by Islam even for people whose health may be affected detrimentally by it. This is incorrect, as the Islamic principle of

“No soul is burdened beyond its capacity” (Holy Qur’an 2:234)

holds true here as well.A Muslim is not obligated to fast until he or she reaches the age of maturity, according to their individual physical development. The age of 17 or 18 has been generally recommended by the Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), as the age when one should begin fasting regularly. Prior to this age, a child can be given permission to voluntarily fast 2-3 days of Ramadan owing to their eagerness, or to simply wake up for Suhoor, with their parents even if they are not fasting. To compel a child to fast is a completely unislamic and inhumane notion.

Similarly, people who are sick, travelling, or women that are pregnant, nursing, or menstruating, are entirely exempt from fasting. Instead, they should donate an amount of money for charity that is the equivalent of feeding one person a day for each day of Ramadan that they could not fast. In this way, despite being unable to fast, they are still encouraged to refine their compassion for the underprivileged, which is a central focus of Ramadan.

Conclusion

In short, Ramadan is a time for Muslims to rejuvenate their spirituality which may have become stagnant during the course of the year. Through the various practices of Ramadan, Muslims strive to enhance their self-control, discipline, and compassion. Thus, we pray that the relationships that we have with God and the people around us before Ramadan, become much more deepened and beautified by the end of the month.