New to Ramadan or want to brush up on the basics? Here’s everything you need to know about the holy month
Ramadan, what’s that?
It’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and when Muslims across the world spend 30 consecutive days fasting from sunrise to sunset, as well as trying to better themselves in many principles of their faith.
What’s the idea behind fasting?
The purpose is to discipline body and mind. Without food, drink and other pleasures, it’s the perfect opportunity to concentrate on prayer and worship. It’s a time to refocus, set new commitments and show thanks for what you have.
What else do people do?
There’s a big focus on families and a real community spirit. Every evening, people gather to break their fast together at iftar and many reconnect again for suhoor – the meal eaten just before sunrise.
People also tend to pray more. Muslims should pray five times a day throughout the year, but in Ramadan it’s even more significant. You might notice people spending more time reflecting on religious teachings or performing the voluntary Tarawih prayer. Mosques will also try to complete one of 30 juz, or sections, of the Quran each evening.
People also think about those less fortunate than themselves. Some donate money to charities, others distribute iftar meals to low-paid workers and there are often many charitable initiatives going on in the community. Muslims believe that good deeds in Ramadan are multiplied in reward many times over.
Just like at Christmas or Diwali, decorations are a big part of Ramadan. Enjoy the twinkling lights and colourful crescents, lanterns and stars that will appear across the city.
Is that it?
Almost. The last ten days of Ramadan are the most auspicious and many people will perform additional prayers. Some will also perform itikaf, which means staying in the mosque for at least one whole day. Be extra respectful during this time.
I’m not Muslim, what do I need to do?
Since we live in a Muslim country, you need to be respectful. You can still eat and drink, but do so discreetly and only in designated, private areas.
Be patient: Fasting co-workers, colleagues and clients will likely be more tired this month, and dress modestly – it’s a simple sign of respect. Why not try fasting for a day or two and make sure you try some of the delicious iftars happening across the city?
The end of Ramadan is marked by the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which falls on the first day of Shawwal (the month after Ramadan). The exact date won’t be confirmed until the moon sighting committee spot the crescent sliver – although this year it’s expected around 14th June. When it is called, there’s a national holiday to celebrate, and Muslim families will pray together before exchanging Eid gifts.
- Be respectful of people fasting
- Dress modestly
- Be nice; embrace the Ramadan spirit
- Try fasting
- Guzzle water in front of fasters
- Chew gum in public
- Play loud music
- Drive anywhere you don’t need to just before and around iftar time – the roads can get manic
- Smoke cigarettes in public