Classes and finals are not fun for me during Ramadan. From asking professors for accommodations to get proper sleep, to the headaches that intensify due to Zoom, Ramadan is physically taxing. However, I am spiritually fed and my emotional health is blooming because I feel I am fulfilling my purpose to be alive. Engaging in worship out of normal routine feels like building a connection with myself and the Divine, which is unmatched.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, regarded as the “holy month” by all sects of Muslims. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam— these are the five principles that summarize the faith and are considered mandatory by Allah (The Arabic word for God).
During this month, Muslims fast every day from sunrise to sunset. The fast includes not eating any foods and drinking any fluids during this time. In Muslim cultures and countries, it is common courtesy to avoid eating or drinking in public during these times to respect the fasting members of the community. Every Muslim, who has reached their puberty and is of good health is obligated to fast. Islam gives concession to not fast if anyone has one or more of the following reasons:
- Sickness or health conditions
- Pregnant/ breastfeeding women
- Menstruating women
Ramadan is considered “holy” for so many reasons other than the commanded fasting as well. Muslims believe that the first verses of the Qur’an, the holy book of Muslims, was revealed to Prophet Mohammad during Ramadan. This is one of the reasons that recitation of the Qur’an is highly encouraged during this time. People of Islamic faith believe that the reward for every good deed is multiplied 70 times during this month, as suggested by the sayings of Prophet Mohammad. It is also considered a month of “forgiveness.”
Muslims wake up before sunrise to have a meal called “suhoor” or “sehri.” This Ramadan, the suhoor time ends around 5 a.m. They break their fast when the evening prayer is called at the time of sunset with a meal, commonly known as “iftar.” Due to these particular timings for everything, people make special arrangements and adjustments to their schedules and have to adapt to an entirely new routine.
According to Muslim traditions, Ramadan is a time of physical and spiritual purification, reflection, reconciliation with God, and blessings. It comes every year to teach punctuality, patience, self-control, perseverance, empathy and generosity for others.
Traditionally, Muslims gather with families at their homes and mosques for suhoor and iftar. Special Ramadan prayers called “Taraweeh” are held post iftar in mosques and at homes. Most Muslims get especially excited for this month to enjoy the aura of special blessings because it is a time of togetherness, special feasts, and realizing the true purpose of life. Although, fasting is about not eating or drinking, Muslims get most excited about what they will be cooking and eating for suhoor and iftar. My family and I make a special menu every day during Ramadan. My suhoor usually consists of chapati, eggs, milk, almonds, dates, and curries. During iftar, fruits and dates are a must; usually I have samosas, pakoras, or spring rolls with it, followed by dinner.
During the fast, Muslims aren’t just supposed to abstain from food and drinks, they are advised to abstain from any verbal or non-verbal harm to anyone and intimacy with their spouses. Lying, gossiping, cursing, profanity and any other harm is especially prohibited. I am a very talkative person, so I have to make special effort to avoid gossiping.
In essence, fasting is an act of worship, which enables Muslims to feel closer to God and strengthen their spiritual health and self-discipline.
Ramadan is also regarded as the month of “giving.” The purpose of thirst and hunger during the day is to realize the suffering of other underprivileged humans. It is to instil gratitude for privileges by giving back to the community whether it be in the form of money, meals, or volunteer efforts. The fourth pillar of Islam is the “Zakat”— an Islamic finance term referring to the obligation that an individual has to donate a certain proportion of wealth each year to charitable causes. Zakat is a mandatory process for Muslims who have more than a certain amount of wealth and is regarded as a form of worship. Most people practice this annual charity during Ramadan as well. According to Islam, the reason for Zakat is to maintain a balance of wealth among the community members and inculcate a spirit of sharing and caring. I am a college student and I don’t have that certain amount of wealth on which Zakat is mandatory. My parents, however, regularly give Zakat. They mostly send that money to Pakistan since there are a lot of underprivileged people we know need our help. Although Zakat isn’t mandatory for me, I give Sadaqah— voluntary charity especially during Ramadan.
Ramadan looked entirely different in 2020 due to Covid-19. While a lot of people were quarantined at home, they enjoyed the time together and were able to use the free time to worship as much as they wanted. However, Covid-19 took a lot of community fun and togetherness with iftars and prayers being virtual due to the closure of mosques. This year, the threat of Covid-19 remains, but the mosques in Hoover and Homewood are open with social distancing procedures and limited capacity. With vaccinations in place, the community is hopeful for a better Ramadan than 2020 and “normal” Ramadans in the future. Islamic scholars and NHS leaders are urging Muslims to keep getting vaccinated against Covid-19 during Ramadan.
This year, Ramadan started on April 12 and will finish on May 12. Ramadan concludes with a religious festival called “Eid Ul Fitr” to celebrate a month of fasting, giving, staying steadfast, and God’s blessings.