It's Ramadan? Oh yeah! Isn't that around Christmas time though?
Yes, It's Ramadan. And yes it's around Christmas time. Sometimes. It's around Thanksgiving. Sometimes. It's around 4th of July. Sometimes. The truth of the matter is that Ramadan is a moving target! It is not a set date in the Gregorian calendar. The Muslim calendar is based on the lunar calendar.
Lunar calendar? So it's based on the moon?
Yes. The Islamic calendar is based on the moon. Lunar months are shorter than solar months; so, Ramadan gets earlier and earlier every year. And since it's based on the moon sighting, we can't always tell you the exact date Ramadan will begin or end. So please forgive your Muslim friends when they seem non-committal in making plans with you when those plans may potentially fall during the holy month.
We've all had that conversation:
"It may or may not be Eid (the most important holiday of the year) for me that day. So yeah ... not sure I can go to the game with you."
Your friend proceeds to give you that look. You know -- the look that is accompanied by the invisible thought bubble above his head that says, "Wierdo!"
Well that's dumb. Can't you just pick a date on the calendar and stick with it like other "normal" religions do?
No. We just can't. Please accept our "lunarcy." We do appreciate it!
So you're fasting in Ramadan, right? But you can still drink water of course!
Yes, we fast during the month of Ramadan. And, No. We don't drink water when we are fasting.
Yes you do. (Voice pitch increases.) You drink water!
No. No we actually don't.
Well, I couldn't do that! (Friend snubs his nose in the air.)
You totally could. Millions of people do it. I've done it a lot during my lifetime.
I know. But not because of the fasting, I promise.
Okay. How does it really work then?
Each day of Ramadan begins at dawn. Dawn is the period of time prior to actual sunset, but when the sky is beginning to show light for the day. Muslims wake up before dawn and have a light breakfast called suhoor. We put something in our stomachs that will hold us for a long time like oatmeal or eggs or ethnic dishes that our Baba used to make. Some Muslim communities actually get together and have suhoor together. (I've never had a community suhoor. But it's really because I love my friends enough to not make them endure MorningDragonYasmina.) We might have a little coffee if we are a bit, ahem, attached to caffeine. And we drink water. We perform the morning (Fajr) prayer and we might go back to sleep.
When we get up to start our day, we are fasting which means we are abstaining during daylight hours from:
-backbiting / gossip
While we are fasting, we are striving to improve and increase:
-our spiritual connection with God
-our kinship with family
-our friendship with neighbors
-our bonding with fellow Muslims in the Ummah (community)
-reflection upon those less fortunate than us, particularly those who endure hunger as a regular struggle in life
-reading Qur'an as often as possible alone and in congregation each night during Taraweeh prayer (extra prayers at night during Ramadan.)
So Ramadan is more than just not eating and drinking? It's trying to improve yourself as a person?
Yes. Ramadan is a time to recharge our bodies, minds and souls. It's a time for spiritual rejuvenation. It's time to break habits and focus on improvement. And when you are fasting and giving up all physical and worldly temptations, you are in a mental state to take on spiritual challenges more than ever before.
Wow. That's pretty cool actually.
But the water!
I'm not dehydrated during Ramadan, I assure you. The more challenging physical aspect is the lack of sleep actually -- because we are waking up so early to eat and staying up so late to pray.
Well, what about sick people? Or old people?
People who are ill, elderly, pre-pubescent, pregnant, nursing, menstruating or traveling -- all are exempt from fasting. Those who are pregnant, nursing, menstruating or traveling can make up those days at another time after Ramadan.
Okay. I guess I understand it better now.
Thanks. So you'll stop thinking I'm weird? I can see on your face that you think I'm weird.
Well, you are weird. But not because of Ramadan.
Okay. We can both agree on that.
Ramadan Mubarak to all! May this Ramadan bring blessings to you and yours and spiritual renewal like never before.