Understanding Ramadan and What it Means for Muslims

It’s important to us that the boys know, understand and respect other cultures and religions. We have always been clear on the fact that what any individual believes (or not) is their choice but that in the same vein, others are allowed the same freedom to choose. School teach our children a lot about different religions and customs. It’s also up to us, as adults, to fill in the gaps for ourselves. This post may help a little with one religious period that is fast approaching, Ramadan.

RamadanLiving in a multicultural society means that we often hear about many occasions in different cultures that we may, perhaps, not know that much about. One such occasion that isn’t all that far away that will be marked by millions around the world, including the United Kingdom, is Ramadan which falls between 15 May and 14 June.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is regarded as one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar and is a period of reflection and a time where Muslims make extra opportunity to show faith in their religion. One of the most widely-known aspects of Ramadan is the fast that Muslims undertake during daylight hours.

From the first ray of sunlight until night has completely overtaken day, those fasting will abstain from food and drink. During the lunar month, which falls on different days each year, Muslims will wake early for breakfast (Suhoor) and break their fast at night for an evening meal (Iftar).

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, which is one of the biggest celebrations in Islam to mark the completion of Ramadan.

Ramadan Traditions

As well as the fasting that takes place during the month, there are a number of traditions that Muslims also follow. As charity makes up one of the obligatory five pillars of Islam, giving donations based on a percentage of profitable financial income, also known as zakat, can be made.

While Muslims are not duty-bound to pay zakat in the actual month of Ramadan, many choose this time as the ideal period to pay as it is the month of blessings. As the amount for each individual differs, Muslims are required to calculate their total zakat before making the donation. Further information on this practice can be found here: https://www.muslimaid.org/zakat-charity/

Nightly prayers are another tradition that many Muslims choose to follow during Ramadan, although this is Ramadannot compulsory, it is highly recommended. During these prayers, it is also common that the Holy Qur’an is recited in sections (each being 1/30 of the Holy Qur’an), meaning that it would have been recited in its entirety by the end of the month.

Not all Muslims Fast During Ramadan

Although the majority of Muslims do observe the fast during Ramadan, there are some who do not. There are various reasons as to why someone may not fast; this can be down to circumstantial or health-related matters (such as menstruation, pregnancy or illness). This results in a forfeit by way of payment to charity – also known as fidya.  

While children may be encouraged to fast, it is not compulsory that they take part. Only from the age of puberty are children expected to observe the fast.

Ramadan in Muslim Countries

In predominantly Muslim countries, such as the Middle East for example, it is common for shops and restaurants to only put on limited staff during the daytime and open up following the fast. In tourist hotspots such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, while visitors are encouraged to respect the religious practice by not eating and drinking in public places, they are still permitted to carry on as normal in private places such.

As temperatures in these countries can be extremely hot, soaring to upwards of 30°C, some local residents choose to sleep during the day to shorten the hours of the fast. Tourists are advised to make preparations should they travel during the month of Ramadan, taking into account the heat and restrictions, if any.

Around the world, roughly 93% of Muslims observe Ramadan, making the holy month a truly international event, culminating in one of the biggest celebrations on any calendar.

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