The Meaning of Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan, is a pivotal point in the Islamic calendar in relation to the practice and worship of those who adhere to the Islamic faith. Fasting during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is a mandatory fast. This month also commemorates the period when the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Muslims will abstain from food, drink and sexual intimacy from before the break of dawn until sunset for the duration of the month. Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset, completing 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle. This also includes no water, chewing gum, hard boiled sweets until sundown.

Ramadan is a scared time of the Islamic year where one engages in fasting to fulfil the commandment of God. In the Quran Muslims are informed that:
‘Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness" (Q 2:183).

For Muslims the very act of abstaining from tangible worldly pleasures is a prescription to attaining piety and righteousness, an act where one starves the body to feed the soul and empties oneself out to God in the process. The very purpose of fasting is intended to teach you discipline over the most basic of desires required for human survival. This is crucially needed in a time where everything around is about attaining instant gratification. If one can control the most basic of human desire during this period, then it would be easier for one to control the most negative aspects of one’s personality.

Other prominent world faiths like Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism also practice the act of fasting and share similar motivations inspiring their followers to fast such as attaining closeness to god, atoning for sins and gaining a sense of spiritual enlightenment. Those that are ill, menstruating, the elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding are exempt from fasting. Muslims who are unable to fast will donate to the poor. The act of fasting is for those who are healthy and capable of doing it without it causing any ill effects to their health.

Any challenging act requires preparation and Ramadan can be viewed as a means of intense training for the soul, which requires preparation. Many Muslims approach Ramadan in the same manner they have in the past, slipping into similar habits not improving much on their spiritual state or in their physical health.

It has been advised for Muslims to prepare their bodies for the intensity of fasting, especially those who fast during the European summer, where they will most likely suffer the aliments of migraines and food withdrawals during the first week. Those who habitually smoke or drink coffee may suffer and need to reduce their intake at least a month before.

It is highly recommended to spend some time engaging in meal preparation and planning a few weeks before Ramadan begins. This year we break our fast around 10pm, leaving very little time to prepare and eat our iftar, which is the term used to define the meal one has to break one’s fast. Without this preparation, people may load up on food during pre- dawn and sunset. This type of excessive eating goes against the spirit of Ramadan.
During the month of Ramadan, a great emphasis on charity is placed upon Muslims. It is encouraged for Muslims to budget and choose campaigns they wish to support during the holy month. Feeding people of need is a noble act and with the spirit of fasting, enables one to empathise with the feelings of hunger and thirst and to pay more attention to the needy.
Although this year, especially for Muslims in Ireland and across Europe, the emphasis is on the long summer hours and the warm summer days where one can feel the intensity of their fast, However, Ramadan is ultimately a time of gratitude and reflection where one is to use this time to improve on one’s state and to excel in personal and spiritual growth.

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