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Ramadan: everything you need to know

Marwa AIT EL FAKIR

You might have heard a thing or two about Ramadan, AKA the Muslim holy month! However, today and through this article, we are going to enlighten you about Ramadan and all the things you need to know about it! 

What is Ramadan?

Muslims have different months; each of them starts with the sighting of the moon, and that is when Muslims are required to fast. Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar and the holy month of fasting, which lasts between 29 and 30 days. Islam has 5 pillars which show how muslims must practice their religion. 

1. The Profession of Faith: The Shahada;

2. Daily Prayers: Salat;

3. Donation: Zakat;

4. Fasting during Ramadan;

5. Pilgrimage to Mecca: Hajj.

Fasting during Ramadan is the fourth of the five Pillars of Islam.

Fasting requirements:

During fast, which lasts from dawn until sunset, Muslims abstain from food, drink (yes, even water), sex and preferably no swearing, nor arguments or gossip.

During the day, Muslims read Coran “the holy book” and pray. At night, after the last usual prayer called Tarawih, there are special Ramadan prayers, though they are not compulsory.

One must also be physically and mentally able to fast: pregnant, breastfeeding and menstruating women are exempt from the fast. Children that have not gone through puberty, travellers, the elderly and the ill also are not required to participate.

Outside of a Mosque

Breaking the fast:

Muslims intending to fast wake up early and eat a light meal, known as suhoor; it is usually consumed about half an hour before the morning prayer called Fajr.

After the sun fully sets at the end of each day, one typically breaks their fast with water and dates, followed by prayers and then a meal called iftar. Each Muslim country has a different Iftar menu depending on the different culture.

For example in Morocco, families usually prepare a traditional tomato based soup called Harira, after the soup comes a variety of bread such as msemen and rghayif, in addition to pizza and crepes, fish is also served either in Tajine with a sauce and vegetables or grilled. Also boiled eggs and traditional sweets are served along with Moroccan tea and various types of juice.

Typical Iftar from Morocco. Photo credits to Marwa EL-FAKIR

The Purpose of Ramadan:

The purpose of fasting is to grow closer to Allah (God), and feel for the less fortunate who cannot afford to buy food. It is also the month of charity. In fact, Muslims usually hold iftar (the meal they eat when the sun goes down) for the poor.

It is a good opportunity to purify the soul and purge the mind by getting rid of all material desires. Fasting promotes patience, discipline and increases the purity of the mind and piety. The tradition says the good work that is done during the month of Ramadan, will result in a multiplication of the normal reward for the same works performed in other months according to the holy book.

What happens after Ramadan?

In the last day of Ramadan, Muslims and specifically the head of the household is obliged (if he is financially able) to donate a certain amount of money to the less fortunate and homeless people on behalf of the other members. It is preferable to pay it just before Eid prayer (first thing in the morning) so that the poor can enjoy the Eid. The minimum amount due is the equivalent of about 2 kg of flour, wheat, barley or rice from each person in the household, including the head of the household and each dependent on him.

Eid al-Fitr, is the celebration marking the end of Ramadan. It starts with a specific prayer called Eid Prayer.

Muslims are required to clean up before going to the place where the Eid prayer is performed; it’s usually an open field or space and not the mosque. The Eid prayer is shorter than the usual prayers and is followed by two speeches given by an Imam in which some pieces of advice are given.

At the end of the prayer, Muslims wish each other a happy blessed Eid by saying “ Eid Mubarak”, then they visit their families and friends. 

Happy Ramadan!

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