The Fast of Ramadan
by Mike Neubauer
Many of you who know me or have been reading my writings for the last few years know that there is one thing that sets me off more than anything else. Racism. Racism comes in many forms, skin color, religious beliefs, sexual preference, etc. And I think the reason for it in many cases is not to be mean, but because we don’t understand.
I’m proud to have friends of every race, religion and sexual preference, and there are many things I’ve learned from each of them. The subject of this article is one that explains an extremely important religious time that many of us know very little, if anything about.
Hopefully by the end of this writing you will be armed with the knowledge and compassion to fully respect and understand what an important time Ramadan is to our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
I’m going to preface this by saying I have three books on my nightstand that I read with some regularity. The King James Bible, The Qur’an, and The Teachings of The Buddah. And though my spiritual beliefs are not important at this time, the reason for these books is. I read these books to help me understand not only the culture that I live in, but the beliefs of others throughout the world.
I don’t believe in judging any man, woman or child for their beliefs. A person’s spiritual or religious choices are between them and God.
Now let’s dig in…
Some of you have probably heard of Ramadan, but I bet very few of you know what it is or the history of it. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, but even before the arrival of Islam it was the ninth month of the Arabian calendar. And like many cultures, the dates of the months revolve around the moon’s cycle. So the month of Ramadan varies each year by about ten days or so.
Traditionally, Ramadan was a time of intense heat and shortages of food. It was also during this time, on a day known as “Laylat al-Qadr” or the Night of Power, that the Qur’an was said to be revealed to the prophet Mohammed. The Qur’an is equivalent to what the Written Torah (Tanakh) is to the Jews or the Holy Bible to Christians. And it is during this holy month that Muslims throughout the world fast.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sun up to sun down daily. For it says it the Qur’an: “fasting has been written down (as obligatory) upon you, as it was upon those before you. Which actually references Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of Atonement.
SIDE NOTE: If you are wondering why a Muslim would reference a Jewish holiday, the answer is because Islam is an Abrahamic religion, Which means, that its traditions and history are closely intertwined with Christianity and Judaism. Since Islam is the youngest of the three major Abrahamic religions, both Moses and Jesus are referenced often in the Qur’an.
Now of course, not everyone is required to fast. The elderly, chronically or mentally ill, pregnant women, children, and women nursing newborns are exempt from fasting. But if you are healthy, have hit puberty, are sane and have no disabilities, then its your duty to fast from dawn to dusk for the entire 30 days of Ramadan.
This includes drinking as well. As long as the sun is up, a Muslim is required to give up food and water until after dark.
Though Ramadan is best known as a time of fasting, it is also a time when Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur’an. In fact, every evening during Ramadan, there are special prayers called Tarawih that take place in the mosques and during which a whole section of the Qur’an (1/30 of the book) is recited.
Also a time of self-reformation, Muslims are to slow down their worldly affairs, focus on spiritual cleansing and strengthening their relationships to God through prayer, charity, supplication and kindness towards others. It is a festival of giving and sharing in which Muslims prepare foods and gifts for family and friends, but also to give to the needy and those who cannot afford it.
In some Muslim countries, failing to fast or openly flaunting such behavior is a pretty serious crime. Even a punishable one! In fact, last year in Algeria, the court of Biskra condemned 6 people to four years in prison and fined them for such behavior!
Right now we are at the very end of the fasting season, in fact this Saturday, September 20, 2009 will be the end of Ramadan. It will be celebrated throughout the world as Eid-al-Fitr, a day of huge celebretory feasts throughout the Islamic world.
And that’s Ramadan 101. Hopefully this article helped shed a little light on this special time of the year for Muslim faithful. The dedication and focus to fast for an entire month, reflect on one’s relationship with The Creator and give to those of less fortune commands my respect and admiration. So if you are a practicing Muslim participating in the fast of Ramadan, my hat is off to you! And don’t worry, Eid-al-Fitr is only a day away!
I’ve been fortunate to meet many great muslim people (including these young girls in Indonesia) along my travels.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”