Demystifying Ramadan: What You Need to Know

BY IMAN UMAIR-QAISER

Many students at MD celebrate Ramadan, an Islamic event where Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown for a month. If you are curious as to why Muslims fast during Ramadan, great! Curiosity is a natural human trait that is a derivative of our constant thirst for knowledge- you’ve come to the right place. Here are some FAQs about Ramadan, answered by a certified Muslim:

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a holy month in the Islamic calendar in which several significant events happened in Islamic history, including the revelation of our Holy Book, the Qur’an. Muslims commemorate this month by fasting from sunrise to sundown every day. It is also a month of spiritual reflection, and many Muslims take this time to pray more, do more good deeds, and read the Qur’an.

At the end of Ramadan is Eid-ul-Fitr, a day of celebration in which families socialize, eat food, and exchange gifts after a mid-morning prayer service. From personal experience: Eid-ul-Fitr is awesome. No school, you spend time with your family, eat the best food during the day, wear amazing clothes, and best of all, as a kid, you get money. And presents too, but let’s be real- half of the relatives you’re meeting that day don’t see you for the rest of the year and therefore have no idea what you like, so you get money. Awesome. Until your mom takes it ‘for safekeeping,’ that is.

Why do Muslims fast?

Muslims fast for many different reasons. Some people say it is to experience the hunger of the poor, who cannot afford to eat regularly, and it is meant to encourage the giving of charity. Others say it is to remove the worldly pursuit of nourishment and food so as to abstain from generally sinful actions and behaviours and better pursue the teachings of Islam and become more spiritually enlightened. Fasting is one of the main parts of the Islamic faith, and is mandatory for all practicing adults. However, there are a variety of reasons a person can be exempt from fasting, including having a chronic illness, being pregnant, and others.

And it’s not just Muslims who fast! People of Jewish faith fast for Yom Kippur from sunset to sunset the next day, and if you’ve ever gotten a blood test or gotten surgery, the doctor will likely have told you not to eat or drink anything for a set amount of hours before the procedure.

You don’t eat or drink for the entire month? Not even water?

No, Muslims do not stop eating for a month. A human body can only last three days without water and three weeks without food. An Islamic fast lasts from sunrise (the time of the morning prayer) to sunset (the time of the evening prayer). This can be anywhere from 22 hours (in near-polar regions, such as Norway or Iceland) to 11 hours. The fast begins with a meal before sunrise, called suhoor by most cultures, and ends with the breaking of the fast at sunset, called iftar. During the day, we don’t eat or drink anything (yes, not even water), but by nightfall we can go ham- er, crazy- on our fridges.

Regarding water- you’d be surprised at how resilient the human body is. We stock up on plenty of fluids from dusk to dawn. During Ramadan, Muslims tend to avoid overexertion, which is why you may see some Muslim classmates choosing to sit off during hardcore Phys Ed activities. Some Muslims, especially pro athletes, still choose to exercise and stay in shape, and many have their own methods of doing that. I recommend reading this fascinating article here.

And that’s about all there is to it! Learning about new cultures sure is fascinating. Let us know if you have anymore questions, and we’ll answer them for next time!

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