Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. For 30 days, Muslims throughout the world fast from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Many also use this time to refocus their devotion to Islam.
The start of Ramadan is signaled by the sighting of the new moon. Islam follows the lunar calendar, which is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar. This means Ramadan falls earlier every year.
According to Islamic tradition, Ramadan is the month when the Quran was revealed. Muhammad advised his followers to revere the month as holy and to set it apart as a time to fast and pray.
At sunset, families gather for iftar.
Fasting is one of five fundamental acts of worship for Muslims. The others include prayer (salat), giving to the poor (zakat), the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), and the confession of faith (shahada).
Fasting begins before dawn, and Muslims are forbidden to eat or drink during daylight hours. Daily routines are disrupted as people attempt to conserve energy. Some will try to sleep the day away if they can, and workplaces often see a drop in productivity.
At sunset, families gather for a special meal called iftar. Following the tradition of Muhammad, they break the fast with dates, a nutrient-dense source of energy. After performing their sunset prayers, they enjoy a large iftar meal together.
Adults are required to fast. Exceptions are made for the elderly, the sick, travelers, and women who are pregnant or menstruating. But missed days of fasting must be made up before the start of the next Ramadan. Those who are unable to do so are instructed to feed a needy person for each day they missed.
Many Muslims use Ramadan as a time to refocus their devotion to Islam.
Every Muslim community has unique cultural traditions tied to the celebration of Ramadan. In some towns, men walk through the neighborhoods early in the morning beating on drums, knocking on doors, or calling out people’s names to wake them up in time to eat the last meal before sunrise. In cities, a cannon might be set off at sunset to mark the end of the day’s fast. Each region also has distinct foods and sweets specially prepared for the iftar meal.
Fasting with sincere faith is seen as an opportunity to atone for sins and receive forgiveness. But Muslims know that no matter how hard they try, they can never be completely sure that their efforts are enough to reach heaven.
Please pray with us that Muslims will discover the assurance of forgiveness through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
By Katie Beck