Ramadan 2017: What’s it all about?

Ramadan is an important holy month in Islam, where followers worldwide fast to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammed. The month of fasting ends with the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, where families gather together to share celebratory meals and children receive gifts.

What are the five pillars of Islam?

Fasting for Ramandan is known as ‘Sawm’, one of the acts of formal worship that are fundamental to the Islamic faith and known as the five pillars of Islam.

The five pillars of Islam are:

  1. Shahadah: reciting the profession of Islamic faith.
  2. Salat: praying five times a day and performing ritual cleansing.
  3. Zakat: paying a certain amount of money to a charitable cause.
  4. Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan.
  5. Hajj: making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
  6. When is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and lasts for approximately 29-30 days, based on sightings of the crescent moon with the dates vary from year to year. This year, the month of Ramadan will begin around the Friday 26th May and, approximately, end on the evening of Saturday 24th June. 

Why is Ramadan special?

Muslims believe that the first revelation of the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 AD on Laylat al-Qadr or ‘the Night of Power’.

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong).” al-Baqarah 2:185

Although the exact date of this event is not known, scholars agree that it occurred on an odd-numbered night in the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan. The 27th is taken as the traditional date of Laylat al-Qadr, and it is considered an excellent time to ask for forgiveness.

Most Muslims will try to give up bad habits and vices during Ramadan to improve their self-control, and will read the Quran more than at other times of the year to progress in their spiritual development.

The history of Laylat al-Qadr

The Prophet Muhammad is believed to have spent the last 10 days of Ramadan deep in worship, praying and reading the Qur’an. He stayed up late praying on Laylat al-Qadr and many Muslims follow this example, in hope of receiving spiritual blessings.

The Prophet said: “Whoever stays up and prays on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih Hadith, Bukhari/Muslim)

Why should I fast during Ramadan?

If you’re a Muslim, it’s compulsory to practice ‘Sawm’ by fasting during the daylight hours throughout the month of Ramadan (if you’re of age and of good health). Fasting during this holy month is considered a way to cleanse a believer’s soul, grow in spiritual wisdom and connect empathically with those around the world who are poor and needy.

“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you, as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” (Surah Baqarah, Holy Quran, 2:183)

The Quran states that it is mandatory for all Muslims to observe Ramadan and for all able-bodied believers to engage in fasting. 

What are Taraweeh payers?

During Ramadan, it’s highly recommended that Muslims engage in long night prayers, known as Taraweeh prayers. The prayers enable Muslims to meet at their local mosque each day and improve community relations throughout the month of Ramadan.

What is I’tikaf? 

I’tikaf means going into seclusion for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, to honour Laylat al-Qadr by praying and reading the Quran. Some Muslims may choose to live at their local mosque for the 10 nights for worship and reflection, while others might spend a few hours on the 27th at their mosque or at home as a symbolic gesture.

Fasting tips for Ramadan

If you’re observing the fast, you should eat at least two meals every day. The pre-dawn meal is known as ‘Suhoor’ and the meal after sunset is called ‘Iftar’. Try to ensure that your meals are simple and not too different from what you’d eat normally.

So what should you eat?

Don’t cut out any of the major food group and ensure that you’re getting enough fruit and vegetables, milk and dairy, meat, fish or vegetarian alternatives, starchy foods like bread and potatoes, and foods containing fat and sugar.

In order to feel fuller during the day, choose complex carbohydrates because they slowly release energy throughout the fast. Complex carbs are found in wheat, oats, barely, lentils, wholemeal flour and basmati rice. Fibre-rich foods are also recommended as they digest slowly, such as bran, skin-on potatoes, grains and seeds, fruit and leafy, green vegetables. Avoid processed or fatty foods, refined carbohydrates and rich, deep-fried foods – these are fast-burning and won’t keep you going.

According to prophetic tradition, most Muslims choose to break their fast (‘Iftar’) is with a glass of water and a handful of dates (normally the recommended consumption of dates should be in odd numbers). Dates provide quick energy, but you could also try a glass of fruit juice. 

Who is exempt from fasting?

You shouldn’t fast during Ramadan if:

  • You’re currently breastfeeding.
  • You have severe or uncontrolled migraines.
  • You have diabetes that requires the use of insulin.
  • You’re a child who has not yet reached puberty.
  • You’re receiving a blood transfusion in hospital.
  • You’re taking long-term medication for certain conditions. Always talk to your GP before engaging in a fast if you require long-term medical treatment.
  • You’re receiving peritoneal dialysis. 
  • The NHS has more detailed information about who should and should not fast during the month of Ramadan.

Giving to charity in Ramadan 

Ramadan is a time of both personal growth and spiritual rewards. It’s considered the best time of the year to perform acts of charity and good deeds, and is often the most popular month for paying Zakat (2.5% of your wealth to the poor and needy). The rewards for giving in Ramadan are believed to be multiplied many times over. In 2016, British Muslims gave over £100 million to charitable causes during the month of Ramadan. 

How we can make a difference together this Ramadan 

At Human Appeal, we’re committed to tackling poverty in all its forms by providing aid to the world’s most vulnerable people. This Ramadan, we encourage all our donors to give to our worthy causes. The situation in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine and Somalia is dire for millions of innocent people. For just £100, you can provide a family with the emergency food, water and medicine they so desperately need to survive.

Save a life this Ramadan. 

Now is the time to give.

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