Humility for prosperity
Sacrifice for blessings
Bended knees for rewards
Heart laid down for worship
To Allah who deserves these all.
More than a billion Muslims around the world will start observing Ramadan tonight at sunset.
The rules of Ramadan are fairly straightforward: for one month, all practicing, able-bodied Muslims over the age of 12 are forbidden to eat or drink from sunup to sundown. Muslims believe that during this month the gates of hell close — meaning the devil is unable to tempt them during a month of discipline, charity and self-control. The objective of the fast, which also prohibits participating in “sensual pleasures” such as smoking, sex and even listening to music during daylight hours, is to diminish believers’ dependence on material goods, purify their hearts and establish solidarity with the poor to encourage charitable works during the year. It’s as much a period of self-growth as of self-denial: Muhammad reportedly said, “He who does not abandon falsehood in word and action in accordance with fasting, God has no need that he should abandon his food and drink.”
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from smoking, engaging in sexual relations, eating or drinking any liquids from sunrise to sunset, which can be a challenge during the long days of summer. It also means avoiding backtalk, being nice to people and controlling desires. Many Muslims will achieve this by reading more from the Quran, the Islamic holy book that Muslims believe was first revealed to their prophet, Mohammed, during Ramadan. Observing Ramadan is one of the main pillars of Islam.
Ramadan is a time for Muslims to “return to God, who is the source of everything, whether it’s health, happiness, peace or wisdom.” Muslims repair their relationship with God through fasting and prayer.
In the Middle East Ramadan will be particularly difficult this year as the days are long and temperatures are soaring. Muslims living in northern countries face fasting through 19 hours of daylight!
The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramidaor ar-ramad, which means scorching heat or dryness.
A typical day starts as early as 3 a.m. with the predawn meal called the sahur, usually rich in protein and carbohydrates to get the faster through the long, foodless day. The rest of the day is spent reciting prayers, abstaining from bad deeds and reading the Koran. Fasters are expected to read the entire holy book within the month, and many mosques have taken to splitting it into 30 even portions recited in daily sermons. The fast lasts until sundown — or until it’s too dark to “distinguish a white thread from a black thread,” according to the Koran — and is broken with a small meal called an iftar which is followed by the Magrib prayer before the fasters join their families and invite the poor for a larger celebratory meal.
The breaking of the fast is often an elaborate affair in wealthier Gulf countries like the United Arab Emirates, where well-to-do Muslims gather in air-conditioned tents, cruise ships or five-star hotels to feast on meals with multiple courses.
In some countries, the fast carries the force of law: in Algeria, six people were jailed last year for failing to observe the fast, while in Iran authorities have shut down restaurants for not closing during the day.
The end of Ramadan is signalled by the sighting of the crescent (new) moon that signals the start of the next lunar month; it’s celebrated by a huge festival called ‘Id al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast-Breaking) where entire villages celebrate together.
1Crescent moon over Bahrain