What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered a Holy month by Muslims across the globe. During this month, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. Ramadan is supposed to be a time of spiritual discipline — reflecting on one’s relationship with God, extra prayer, increased charity and generosity, and intense study of the Quran, which we believe was revealed during this month.
This year, Ramadan begins on May 6 and lasts until June 4. We celebrate the end of Ramadan with the religious holiday Eid al-Fitr, which is one of our only two holidays in the year; think everyone coming together for big meals and exchanging gifts like for Christmas.
What exactly is fasting?
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which is a basic framework of the Muslim life. Fasting is fardh, or mandatory, for all adult Muslims except those who are elderly, ill, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, or on their period.
The daily fast involves giving up all food, drink (yes, even water), smoking, and having sexual relations from dawn to sunset. We usually wake up early for a pre-dawn meal called suhoor, and break our fast with dates, followed by a meal referred to as iftar. Basically, we just have an extra early breakfast, skip lunch and snacks, and have a big dinner. Don’t worry, you can still have your midnight ice cream runs.
Many Muslims eat iftar with extended family and even invite guests over. Many mosques host large iftars for the community, especially for the poor and needy. Nightly prayers called Taraweeh are also held in mosques after iftar, which can go on pretty late into the night.
All you do is fast?
In this month, Muslims pray extra, read significantly more Quran, refrain from sinning and try to curb negative emotions and bad habits like backbiting, fighting, lying, and insulting others which may nullify the fast. These bad habits also include wasting time, such as binge watching Netflix (guilty as charged), excessive internet browsing, when we can be putting that time to good use like ibadah (acts of worshipping God), spending time with friends and family, engaging in a hobby, or work.
Why do you fast?
There’s a couple reasons we fast: to remind us of our human frailty and dependence on God for sustenance, to show us what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty so we feel compassion for the poor and needy, and to reduce the distractions in life so we can more clearly focus on your relationship with God.
We believe that during this month, the gates of Hell are closed with Satan chained up, meaning that all the sins we commit this month come from our subconscious, rather than whispers from the devil. This helps us assess what problems we have need to be worked on.
The idea is that if we give up our bad habits during this month, it is easier to continue this in our normal life after Ramadan ends. After all, it takes 21 days to break a habit, and Ramadan gives you 29.
To my fellow Muslims:
May Allah make is easy for us to build on our characters, spend our time productively, achieve our goals, and fast. May Allah bless all the Muslims across the globe, forgive our sins and strengthen our imaan (faith). Ameen!
8 Tips to Succeed This Ramadan
1. Wake up to have suhoor. It’s a Sunnah and empty stomach=grumpy muslim. You need all your strength for maximum ibadah (worship).
2. Plan your life around salah (prayer) times, not the other way round!
3. If you find yourself doing nothing, say athkar like SubhanAllah, Alhmadulillah, La ilaha illallah, and Allahu Akbar.
4. Do what you love to do. Some people love to feed the poor, while others love studying the Quran. Some people love spending more time in the masjid and others love to spend more time in seclusion. People often force themselves to do things their heart isn’t fully into, and they tire themselves out. Choose the good deeds you enjoy doing and increase them.
5. The most powerful times to make dua (pray) are in the last-third of the night and just before Maghrib (sunset prayer). The key is to be sincere in your prayers and have trust in Allah that your wishes will come true.
6. Avoid wasting time on things that are unbeneficial like hanging out, excessive Iftar parties, watching tv and addiction to social media.
7. Read 4 pages of Quran with meaning after each prayer to finish one Juz a day, and Insha’Allah the entire Quran by the end of the month!
8. Surround yourself with people who are successful during this month.