Ramadan: A beginner's guide

What is Ramadan?

It’s the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, and a very special one for Muslims around the world. In Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day, perform special prayers at night, increase their worship and do good deeds like giving charity.

Why is it a big deal?

It’s the month in which the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It’s a month full of blessings so Muslims try to disconnect from the distractions of the world and focus on their faith.

What do you have to do?

No eating or drinking at all (and no sexual relations) during daylight hours. Also, no offensive behaviour like getting angry, backbiting or swearing. It’s the ideal time to overcome one’s desires and break bad and unhealthy habits.

Do all Muslims have to do it?

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam so all sane adult Muslims must fast. However, there are exceptions for people who are sick, menstruating, travelling, etc. These people don’t have to fast if they meet the conditions for exemption.

How do you cope?

It’s actually a daily fast that begins before sunrise and ends after sunset, so at the end of each day you can eat and drink as normal. This year in the UK, Muslims will be fasting for around 18 hours a day, and they’ll be doing that every day for 30 days.

Isn’t that really hard?

Some people do struggle with hunger, others feel thirstier, and for some it’s the lack of energy that’s hard. But that’s not what Ramadan is about. Through the discipline of giving up basic necessities and increasing acts of worship you feel spiritually uplifted and connected to your Lord. The focus is not on what you’re giving up, but on what you’re gaining.

What happens at the end of the month?

There’s a festival called Eid ul Fitr. Muslims wear their best clothes, go to the mosque, give charity, enjoy special foods and celebrate with their loved ones.

What are the other pillars of Islam?

The first pillar of Islam is to have faith – to believe in Allah (God) and his Messenger Muhammad (pbuh). The second is prayer, performed five times a day. The third is to give charity. The fourth is fasting and the fifth is to perform pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj.

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