What is Ramadan? And Why Do Muslims Celebrate it?

Muslims have been fasting for a specific month every year since 624 AD, known as Ramadan. However, it is important for non-Muslims to know about this holy month, even if Muslims are considered minority in the UK, as spreading awareness encourages tolerance and unites us all.

Fasting in Islam means abstaining from food, drinks, smoking and not engaging in sexual activities from dawn until sunset for the whole month of Ramadan. However, not all Muslims are obliged to fast. There are two main criteria for those who should fast, first: one must hit puberty in order to start fasting and second: anyone who wants to fast should have a physically ability. Women are, for instance, excused from fasting during their menstrual cycle since, at that time, they endure a physical condition that could make it challenging or even dangerous to their health. Other exceptions are also made for people who are traveling or ill.

Muslims eat two meals during the month of Ramadan. The first one is Sahoor, a pre-dawn meal, which means they have to wake up very early to eat. This meal is usually something light but healthy at the same time to provide energy throughout the day.

The second meal is called Iftar, which means breaking fast and it is at sunset. Muslims are recommended to break their fasting with water and dates before eating the large meal.

Muslims fast throughout Ramadan for a number of reasons, including:

  1. To carry out a religious duty: One of the Five Pillars of Islam, the five fundamental acts of worship that are required of all Muslims, is fasting during Ramadan. Muslims fulfil this religious need and show their allegiance to God by fasting during Ramadan.
  2.  Muslims who fast from dawn till dusk must refrain from consuming anything to eat or drink or to meet other basic requirements. Muslims who engage in this practise grow in self-control and discipline, which can be useful in all aspects of life.
  3. Fasting also fosters greater piety and a closer relationship with God. Generally, Muslims engage on spiritual reflection and deepen their devotion to God during the month of Ramadan.
  4. Fasting during Ramadan is a chance for Muslims to experience hunger and thirst in a way that many people throughout the world do on a daily basis, allowing them to sympathise with those who are less fortunate. By doing so, one may be better able to empathise with and comprehend the hardships of others.

During Ramadan, Muslims do not only fast, they also increase their prayer, particularly the Tarawih prayers, which are held after the evening prayer (Isha) and involve recitation of the Quran throughout the month. And because Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed, Muslims frequently read the Quran more during this month.  Many Muslims try to complete reading the entire Quran during Ramadan. Ramadan is also the month when Muslims try to do more charitable acts. During Ramadan Muslims are obliged to give Zakat (charity) and are encouraged to help those in need.

Having understood what is Ramadan and what is the purpose behind it, non-Muslims can also be part of that by being mindful and aware of the importance of this holy month for Muslims.  Non-Muslims can demonstrate their tolerance and respect for Muslims during Ramadan by taking the following steps:

  1. Ramadan Awareness: Non-Muslims should be aware of the month of Ramadan and its importance to Muslims. This can help to avoid scheduling events or activities during this month that may conflict with Muslim practice.
  2. Empathy: Non-Muslims can show empathy to Muslims fasting during Ramadan by being aware of their needs and limitations. Refraining from eating or drinking in front of Muslims who are fasting, for example, can be a respectful and supportive gesture.
  3. Non-Muslims can take the time to learn about Muslim culture, customs, and practises, such as the significance of Ramadan. This can help in the development of understanding and respect for the Muslim community.
  4. Non-Muslims can show respect for Muslims by not making derogatory or offensive remarks about their beliefs or practice. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, it is critical to treat Muslims with dignity and respect.
  5. Extend greetings: During Ramadan, non-Muslims can greet Muslims by saying “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Happy Ramadan.” During this important month, this can demonstrate support and appreciation for the Muslim community.

At the end of the month of Ramadan Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Fitr “Festival of Breaking the Fast”. It is a time to celebrate, feast, and thank Allah (God) for the blessings and strength received during the month of Ramadan.

On Eid al-Fitr, Muslims gather in mosques or other large gathering places for special Eid prayers. They dress in new clothes and exchange gifts, especially with children. Many families prepare special foods and host feasts to celebrate the end of Ramadan. It is also a time when Muslims donate to charity and assist those in need.

Many Muslims will prepare Eid al-Fitr-specific foods, like sweet pastries or other traditional dishes. These foods are commonly shared among friends and family.

Generally speaking, Eid al-Fitr is a time for Muslims all over the world to rejoice, celebrate, and express gratitude. It is a time for Muslims to gather and celebrate the end of the month-long fast, as well as to share the blessings and joy of the event with family and friends.

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