Ramadan: spiritual fasting and feasting
For millions of UK Muslims, Ramadan is an important moment of inner reflection, worship, fasting and feasting. This month-long fast is one of Islam’s five pillars, along with the creed, daily prayers, giving alms and the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Islam is the second religion in the UK, with an estimated 2.9 million resident Muslims. One of the key yearly events for all practising Muslims is Ramadan, which commemorates the Koran’s revelation to Prophet Muhammad and begins on August 1 this year, lasting for a month.
So what is Ramadan all about? How is Ramadan observed and by whom? Read on to learn more…
Ramadan: fasting from sunrise to sunset
Ramadan lasts for a month, corresponding to the 9th month of the lunar calendar. During this month, Muslims put more attention to Islam’s teachings, keeping to purity and self-discipline, with empathy and generosity towards others.
Fasting is believed to aid this process of introspection and inner cleansing. And so, in concrete terms, between sunrise and sunset, a person who observes Ramadan is forbidden from:
- Having sexual relations.
At sunset, breaking of the daily fast takes on a strong social character…. Family, friends and neighbours are invited in the evening to pray, then eat together. In many Muslim countries working hours are adapted to facilitate the changed social conditions during the month of Ramadan.
At the end of the Ramadan month a huge festival takes place – Eid ul-Fitr: when collective early morning prayers are held, streets and homes are decorated, food is given to the poor, new clothes are worn and there is much feasting, exchanging of gifts, and general celebration and thanks between families and communities.
Who can observe Ramadan?
In general, the Ramadan fasting poses no problem for most people and is indeed practiced by millions and millions of Muslims around the world, from puberty onwards.
There are however some medical exceptions, and in these cases, Islam forbids fasting for such people. As such, children, elderly people, anyone with unstable diabetes, cardiac problems or other chronic illnesses, mental disorders or women with difficult pregnancies can forgo Ramadan fasting. Even those people travelling or ill during Ramadan can forgo fasting, but under the condition that they make up the days missed.
Happy Ramadan to one and all!
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