At long last, I'm back! This week, I would like to offer my views on Ramadan, one of the holiest months in the Islamic faith. This past Monday, June 6th, was actually the first day of Ramadan, so it seems a pertinent topic to discuss.
Unlike the Gregorian calendar that we ubiquitously use that relies on the Earth's revolution around the Sun, the Islamic calendar is situated around the changing phases of the moon. Thus, the months of the Gregorian calendar do not correspond directly to particular months in the Islamic calendar. The month of Ramadan follows the month of Shaban, and begins upon the sight of the crescent moon. Since the crescent moon was seen on Sunday night, the first "day" of Ramadan was Monday (the Islamic day runs from the sunset of the day before).
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are instructed to fast - abstain from food and drink - from sunrise to sunset. We eat two special meals during Ramadan: suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, and iftar, the post-sunset meal. While one can eat whatever they like for suhoor and iftar, the norm is to eat dates and drink water/milk. Ramadan brings the community together, as it is common for many families to meet up and break their fast together. Personally, I find the communal aspect of Ramadan - praying and eating together -what makes the holy month that much more special.
Normally, Muslims pray five times a day: Fajr, the pre-dawn prayer, Dhuhr, the mid-day prayer, Asr, the afternoon prayer, Magrib, the post-sunset prayer, and Isha, the nighttime prayer.It is recommended to increase ones prayers during such a holy month, so many Muslims will convene in their mosques and in their homes to pray additional optional prayers late into the night and early in the morning. One will find mosques bustling with congregants throughout the month.
At the end of the month, Muslims around the world celebrate a successful month by taking part in the holiday of Eid. It is customary for Muslims to attend mosque Eid morning. After congregating to pray, it is customary for families to get together and celebrate with food and drink (we can finally eat during the daytime!)
I interpret Ramadan to be a trial month of sorts. By abstaining from food and drink during the day, the Muslim is meant to put his or her concentration on becoming a better person. While Muslims are prohibited from cursing, slandering, and losing his/her temper in any month, they especially refrain from such behavior during the month of Ramadan. Likewise, while Muslims are encouraged to give charitable acts and almsgiving in every month, they especially donate more of their time and money to worthy causes locally, nationally, and internationally. By the end of the "trial" month, Muslims should have been trained in how to become the best people they can possibly be. All in all, it is a truly rewarding experience.