Ramadan, a month of fasting observed annually worldwide by Muslims to commemorate the first revelation of the Qu’ran to the Prophet Muhammad, commenced this year on May 16.
According to Islamic belief, one of the five pillars of the religion is fasting, which is the practice of not eating or drinking anything including water while the sun is shining during Ramadan.
More than abstaining from food, Muslims believe in setting the intention, or niyyah, that the act of fasting is meant to worship Allah and Allah alone.
Families typically celebrate Ramadan by waking up early before the sun rises and eating a meal called sohour — and after the sun sets, the fast is broken with a meal called iftar.
Iftar often begins with eating dates and sweet drinks to give fasting Muslims a quick energy boost according to “How Ramadan Works.”
Iftar can include any type of food, but the dessert almost always includes konafa or qattayef. Konafa is a cake made of wheat, sugar, honey, raisins and nuts. Qatayef is a similar cake, but it is smaller and is folded to encase the nuts and raisins.
In between the two meals, the nighttime iftar and the predawn sohour, Muslims can eat freely.
Muslim children are not required to fast until at least the age of 12.
Why Muslims fast:
To bring themselves closer to Allah and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate.
To remind themselves of the importance of charity.
An opportunity to practice self-control.
To cleanse the body, mind and spirit.
To reinforces feelings of unity and brotherhood among Muslims.
Muslims believe that Ramadan is the month in which Allah contacted the prophet, Muhammed, to give him the verses of the holy book, or Qu’ran.
Muslims say nightly prayers whether it is Ramadan or not, but the taraweeh, or Ramadan nightly prayer is of additional significance.
According to scripture, “Whoever observes night prayer in Ramadan as an expression of his faith and to seek reward from Allah, his previous sins will be blotted out.”
Thus, the Ramadan nightly prayer, after a day of fasting, serves the purpose of eradicating the sins that have been previously committed.
On June 15, Ramadan concludes, ending with the worldwide celebration of Eid al-Fitr.
Muslims celebrate with fellowship, dancing, food, lights and other festive mementos to honor another year of devotion to Allah and the teachings of the Qu’ran.
Words of Ramadan:
Eid mubarak – A blessed ‘Eid
Atyab at-tihani bi-munasabat hulul shahru Ramadan al-Mubarak – Congratulations on the occasion of the coming of Ramadan
Kullu am wa antum bi-khair – May you be well throughout the year
Takbeer – There is nothing in the world that is bigger or greater than Allah
Taraweeh – Ramadan nightly prayer
Sawm – Fasting
Niyyah – Intention