by Oskar O'Hara, Stefan Quaadgras, and Tommy Kearney

The next Ramadan begins on June 18th 2015 and ends on July 17th 2015

Allah's Message to Muhammad

Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is a month in which all Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is considered a holy month because it was the month in 610 C.E. in which Allah revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad. At age 40 on this night, on Mount Hira, Muhammad had a vision of an angel named Jibril, who told Muhammad that he was the messenger of Allah. Jibril said to Muhammad, “Recite in the name of your Lord Who creates. Creates a man from a cloth. Recite: And your Lord is the Most Bountiful Who teaches by the pen, He teaches man what he does not know.” Muhammad was confused as he descended the mountain, fearing he had been visited by an evil spirit. He told his wife Khadijah, who took Muhammad to her cousin, Waraqa ibn Nawfal, who was able to interpret sacred text. Waraqa assured Muhammad that Jibril was a holy spirit, and he was a messenger of Allah. Jibril shared knowledge with Muhammad over twenty three years, which eventually formed the sayings of the Qur’an. The night when Muhammad was bestowed with this knowledge was supposedly during the month of Ramadan. This night is represented by Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, the holiest night of the year. To show respect for Allah and to thank him for his knowledge, Muhammad asked the followers of Islam to spend the month of Ramadan fasting and sending prayers to Allah. The fasting shows that God is more important than food or drink, and praying to him shows thanks to him for his gifts.

Above the photo shows a man praying to the sun and to the sea before Fasting.

Traditions of Ramadan

During Ramadan, all followers of Islam carry out multiple rituals. The month of Ramadan starts and ends with the sighting of the first crescent moon. For Ramadan to start, two Muslim witnesses who look for the crescent moon must sight it, and then they tell the qaḍī (judge). If the qaḍī believes the two witnesses he will tell the muftī (interpreter of Muslim law) to order the beginning of the fast. Ramadan is, by far, the most important ritual in Islam. During Ramadan, all able bodied followers must fast (not eat or drink) from sunrise to sunset. This is interpreted differently between Islam Sunni and Islam Shi’ite. Sunni Muslims believe that you are not allowed to eat until the sun disappears on the horizon, while Shi’ite Muslims believe that you must fast until no sunlight remains. The ill, old, pregnant, young or those who are traveling, however, do not have to follow the stricter rules of fasting or can postpone their fasting to a later date. For example, a child will not begin to fast until age seven, but doesn't have to fast for the entire month until age twelve. Ramadan is focused on practicing self restraint, or ṣawm, the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam. While most understand this self restraint as fasting, the wider interpretation is to refrain from eating, drinking, sexual activity, cursing, impure thoughts, and all other immoral activity. The Qur’an specifically states that eating or drinking is forbidden from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. If ṣawm is broken by eating or drinking during the wrong hours, it can be made up with an extra day of fasting. Muslims also pray more during Ramadan, attending special services at mosques and praying ahead for the entire year before them. Muslims must also read the Qur’an at least once during Ramadan. Some Muslim work facilities will shorten work days, since Ramadan occurs mostly at night. It is also a tradition during Ramadan to try to forget all bad habits. After sunset, when Muslims are allowed to eat, they have special feasts called iftars. Iftars are shared between friends and family and sometimes last until right before sunrise. At the start of an iftar, Muslims will traditionally eat apricots or dates with water or sweetened milk, but then move onto large dishes of vegetables, bread, and meat. At the end of Ramadan, there is a special feast called Eid al-Fiṭr, or the feast of breaking. It is another major Muslim holiday and one of the biggest major holidays on the Muslim calendar. During Eid al-Fiṭr, Muslims will dress in their best clothing. Children get new clothes, women wear white, and families bake special pastries and exchange gifts. Muslims also visit graves and gather to pray at mosques. According to Muslims belief, if one does not follow the rules of Ramadan, the only way to substitute it is to perform a righteous act for their community, such as feeding the poor or volunteering for a job.

Did you know?

Ramadan has been banned in the Xinjian province in China. The government has forbidden the ethnic group Uighurs, who practice Islam, to celebrate Ramadan, which causes many tensions between the Uighurs and police.

Works Cited

BBC News. BBC. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/religion/islam/ramadan.shtml>.

Esposito, John L., and Abdulaziz Abdulhussein Sachedina. The Islamic World: Past and Present. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.

"IslamiCity.com - Islam & The Global Muslim ECommunity." IslamiCity.com - Islam & The Global Muslim ECommunity. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.islamiccity.com/>.

"Thanksgiving." TheHolidaySpot: Holidays and Festivals Celebrations, Greeting Cards, Activities, Crafts, Recipes Wallpapers, and More. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.theholidayspot.com/>.

"Words of Wisdom." Month of Ramadan. Web. 25 Nov. 2014. <http://www.islamicfoundation.ca/ramadan.aspx>.

"Ramadan." Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.