Sunrise to Sunset
Throughout the next 30 days, over 1.5 billion people around the world will be observing Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, with adults fasting and praying from sunrise to sunset.
In North America this year, Ramadan begins at sunset on July 9, but there are some years when it falls in the middle of winter! This is because, for those who don’t follow an Islamic calendar, Ramadan is a moving holiday that shifts about ten days every year based on date of the new moon. Despite the changing dates, the strong traditions of Ramadan remain the same: there is fasting, prayer and the practice of selflessness.
Fasting and Other Traditions
Fasting is one the Five Pillars of the Islam religion and one of the highest forms of Islamic worship. For Muslims, it’s a way to sacrifice earthly pleasures, share the sufferings of the less fortunate and more deeply appreciate the bounties of Allah. Only adults are expected to fast, but children enjoy the other traditions including the excitement of sighting the moon and sharing special meals.
A typical day of Ramadan begins just before sunrise with a meal called Sahur, followed by the first of five prayers, which are offered all day long. And then the fast begins. Throughout the day, Muslims are encouraged to go out of their way to help the needy, both financially and emotionally. In fact, some people are so enthusiastic about helping others during this month, they barely have time for themselves. But since Muslims believe they will be rewarded more than 70 times over for good deeds during Ramadan, this is well worth the effort. At the end of each day, the fast is broken at sunset, often with social dinners or “lftar parties.” And then remainder of five prayers is offered, usually at a Mosque.
The month of Ramadan ends with a festive celebration called Eid-ul-Fitr (commonly called “Eid”) which often lasts three full days. Muslims get together with family and friends, share gifts and eat delicious dinners. Or they take a short vacation…before patiently waiting for the next year.
Overall, Ramadan is a very special time of brotherhood and customs that brings about a feeling of closeness, community and religious commitment, which is a wonderful experience for Muslims of all ages around the world.