The month of Ramadan is here once again. Alhamdulillah. Thanks be to God. Last year I spent it in Bangladesh, which was great. The only downside was that they focus way too much on food over there. You should see the streets right before iftar (the fast-breaking meal) time! But, that’s only to be expected in a country/culture where food is always at the center of attention.
This year, I will experience the longest Ramadan days so far in my life. The last time Ramadan was at this time of the year was in the 80s, when my family moved to this country. I was either not born or too small to remember anything of that time though.
And for those who are not Muslims and/or do not know much about Islam, Ramadan becomes just that; abstaining from food and drink all day. But that is only a part of the fasting. I’ve compiled a list of other important things to know about Ramadan:
- Ramadan is such an important month because it was in this month that the Qur’an was sent down to mankind through the prophet Muhammad ﷺ (may Allah honor him and grant him peace).
- During Ramadan, the shayateen (devils) are locked up, which means they cannot influence people in any way. This is why – you might have come across it – Muslims say it is a time of inner reflection. Of course, listening to the devil at any time and acting upon his whisperings doesn’t ever help you escape blame – you cannot sin with impunity (unless of course, you’re unaware of the fact that what you’re doing is a sin) – but when you’re free from his influences you know that whatever wrong you’re thinking or doing is all you. That’s the pessimistic side of things 😛 , there’s an optimistic side as well, which is that you realize how much good you’re actually capable of. Ramadan is thus a great spiritual boost and springboard for worship and doing good; you can use it to create new good habits which you take with you after you exit the month into the rest of the year.
- The actual fast, of course, is to abstain from food, drink and conjugal relations from dawn to sundown. However, it is also prescribed to avoid getting into arguments. In fact, it is written in the hadiths (collection of reports of teachings, deeds, sayings etc of the prophet Muhammad ﷺ) that if anybody is rude to you while you’re fasting, you should reply that person with a phrase in Arabic which translates to “I am fasting. I am fasting.” People sometimes also add gossiping/backbiting to the list of things to abstain from during Ramadan, but that is forbidden the rest of the year as well.
- Of course, what is forbidden is forbidden all year, but people emphasize that you should focus on avoiding sin during this month as to have your fasts accepted by God.
- The rewards of Ramadan are immensely high. On top of that, there is a hadeeth that says that the prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever fasts Ramadaan out of faith and in the hope of reward, his previous sins will be forgiven.”
- The same is said for spending the night in prayer, which is another very important part of this month. The taraweeh prayers are performed at night during Ramadan. These are not obligatory prayers, but they carry with them high reward and are among the main practices of Ramadan.
- Another very important practice of Ramadan is reading the Qur’an, and Muslims aim to finish it before the month ends (not an easy task, I can tell you, more than 600 pages that you recite).
There is much more that can be added to this list, but I tried to focus on the most important parts. This to show that Ramadan doesn’t revolve around the idea of “food or not food”. It is a month of worship, charity, reflection and self-improvement.
Ramadan Kareem, sisters and brothers.