Ramadan and What It's Really About
by Afnan Isleem
It’s that time of the year! The time when people express immense curiosity in my eating habits. I get asked questions like, “Why aren’t you eating or drinking? Don’t you even drink water? No water at all? Do you get enough nutrients?” In this blog I want to answer some of these questions and cover some of the important facts and practices of the holy month. My name is Afnan, and as a recent graduate of Ohio State University, this will be my fourth Ramadan in the United States.
What Ramadan is about
Based on the sighting of moon, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and lasts 29-30 days. Being a muslim in a non-muslim country, it becomes difficult at times to explain the true essence of Ramadan. It’s not just about refraining from eating and drinking but about being grateful and humble to God for all of His blessings and helping those in need. To each muslim Ramadan means something different. For some it’s a test of their patience; for others it’s a time of repentance. To others it means taking some time out of their busy lives and devoting it to prayer and reading the Quran.
Fasting is from sunrise to sunset
The most frequently asked question I get is, “Do you fast all day long?” No. Muslims keep the fast from sunrise (Sahoor) to sunset (Iftar). So it’s not the entire day. That means the fasting hours vary depending on which part of the globe you’re in. Some might be fortunate enough to fast for only 10 hours, and others fast for 21 hours like in Greenland.
Practicing Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during Ramadan
Yes, that means not even water. However, that’s not all Ramadan is about. Ramadan is about endurance and patience, and practising muslims know very well that the reward of fasting will be wasted if we don’t control our anger, refrain from back-biting, etc. Ramadan also brings us closer to those who are less fortunate than us, as God has stressed helping those in need and giving away in His name, especially in this month.
Are there any circumstances under which Muslims DON’T have to fast?
Of course, there are circumstances where muslims can break their fast. For example, people who are traveling can break their fast. Pregnant or breastfeeding women can also break their fast, and kids don’t have to fast until they are at the age of puberty. However, a lot of moms like to teach their kids at a younger age by having them fast for a few hours or half a day.
Finally, Ramadan is the month of families and friends coming together to have Iftar (Dinner meal) together and when women compete to make the best food and desserts and arrange the best table. Families and friends come together to enjoy a feast of good food and talk, catch up, and make memories. My favorite time of the day and the month is the time I get to share with my favorite person. After having Iftar, my mother and I go to pray at the masjid (mosque) for the last prayer of the day. It's the most important and precious time of my day. I feel encouraged when I’m praying with my mom and with the group. Sitting with my community and seeing other women bond with each other and share their lives brings joy to my heart.