Ramadan (Sawm) is one of the pillars of Islam and is compulsory for all healthy adults to participate in. It is the holiest month of the year for us Muslims. Every year, Muslims all around the world fast during daylight hours, only being able to eat and drink after sunset.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar. It’s believed to be the month that the Quran was revealed. Healthy adult Muslims fast in Ramadan from dawn until sunset. Fasting is not just about abstaining from food or drink all day, there are a lot more things we are encouraged to do, to ensure we have a successful month and complete every fast. Refraining from immoral acts and anger are 2 other things that are required to keep a fast. Muslims are also encouraged to perform other acts of worship during Ramadan such as prayer, reading the Quran and charity.
Ramadan teaches us many great things that we can take with us through the rest of the year and beyond. Patience, piety and discipline are just 3 of those things. As Muslims, we should attempt to take advantage of the chance Ramadan brings to us.
One benefit that Ramadan brings, is the chance for us to renew our identity with the Ummah. Opposing to what many people think, Ramadan is not an individual experience but is about the community. All Muslims fast together, and this gives us the chance to identify with one another in our obedience to Allah (SWT).
As we welcome Ramadan, we must keep the entire Muslim Ummah in our thoughts and prayers. There are many people throughout the world who will be fasting with no homes, very little belongings and barely any food for Suhoor and Iftar. Those in Yemen are one of the worst affected and the destruction of a war coupled with the devastation of the worst Cholera outbreak in history, adding to what was already the poorest country in the Arab world and one of the poorest worldwide, means we need to act now. Ramadan is all about giving to those in need, so be sure to donate and aid those who really need your help in the most blessed of months.
What is Iftar, Suhoor & Tarawih?
During the holy month, Muslims wake up early to eat a meal called Suhoor, which is a pre-dawn meal. It is a vital part of fasting that we eat a healthy meal in order to remain in good health for the rest of the day. Many people skip Suhoor, for many reasons including tiredness and lack of hunger. However, Allah (SWT) does not favour this because those who skip Suhoor are more likely to find it harder to fast and therefore end up breaking it prematurely. The best way to eat a meal during Suhoor is to eat in moderation and is the right time to consume a meal to fill oneself adequately so fasting throughout the whole day is easier.
The meal we eat to break our fast is called Iftar. Performing Iftar is an act that brings blessings for us Muslims. In Ramadan it is very common for Mosques to host large Iftars, especially for the poor and needy. This is a prodigious act of humanity and one that is greatly favoured by Allah (SWT). The one who gives a fast observer water to drink at the time of Iftar will be given a drink from Allah’s fountain where they will never again feel thirsty.
After Iftar, the nightly prayers called Tarawih are also held in the Mosque. Tarawih is a prayer specific for Ramadan that is 20 rakahs and it comes from the Arabic word, of which the plural “Tarweeha” means “to rest”. The Tarawih prayer is named so because a brief rest is taken after each four rakahs which constitute to a Tarweeha. Five Tarweeha make up a whole Tarawih prayer.
When is Ramadan?
As Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on a lunar calendar, it varies every year. With a lunar calendar, each month begins at the start of a new moon. Lunar months are shorter than solar months, which then means the Islamic calendar does not correspond with the Gregorian calendar that we follow in the West. This further means that Ramadan occurs around 11 days earlier each year. The start of Ramadan also varies from country to country by about a day, depending on when the new moon is sighted.
How long is Ramadan?
Lunar months last between 29 to 30 days, all dependent on when the new moon is sighted. If the moon is not seen on the night of the 29th fast, then Ramadan will last for the full 30 days. The Eid ul-Fitr celebration marks the end of the month, when Muslims celebrate a successful month of fasting and worship.
Regardless of whether Ramadan lasts the full 30 days or not, the last 10 days of Ramadan are the most important and blessed. In these ten nights is a night that is described in the Quran as “better than a thousand months” (97:3). This is Laylat Al Qadr (the Night of Power)
What is Laylat Al Qadr?
Laylat Al Qadr is considered to be the holiest night of the year for us Muslims. It is traditionally celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan. In English it is called the “Night of Power” and remembers the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him).
Most scholars believe the night falls on one of the odd numbered nights of the final 10 days of Ramadan, such as the 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, or 27th days of Ramadan. Although the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) did not mention exactly when it is, it is most widely believed to fall on the 27th day of Ramadan.
“Whoever establishes the prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards (not to show off) then all his past sins will be forgive.” Hadith, Bukhari Vol 1, Book 2:34
As Muslims, we observe this occasion with study, devotional readings, and prayer, as the nights holiness is believed to make it a very good time for prayers to be answered. The last 10 days of Ramadan are considered to be particularly spiritually important time, as any of the days may be Laylat Al Qadr, and therefor worshippers strive to be especially observant during this period.
Tips for Ramadan
Although Ramadan is the most blessed month and a chance for us to benefit from so many things, it is also a month that can be very tough when not given the right guidance. Long working hours without food or drink can be very destructive to our normal routine and lack of energy can also have a negative effect on our body. These tips will hopefully keep you healthy in Ramadan and also keep you productive.
- Have sincere intentions, work hard and make lots of Dua for an ultimate productive Ramadan
- Plan your day each day of Ramadan, the night before. Choose 3 important tasks you want to achieve the next day and record it in your diary.
- Never EVER miss Suhoor, wake up at least 1 hour before Fajr and have a filling and balanced meal.
- Start working on your most important tasks right after Fajr and get at least 1 or 2 done.
- Try to get an afternoon nap, not more than 20 minutes, either just before Dhuhr or after Dhuhr.
- Plan your Ramadan days (and life) around Salah times, not the other way round.
- BLOCK at least one hour each day for reciting the Quran.
- Break your fast with dates and water, go pray Maghrib and then come back for a light meal.
- Get involved with organising community Iftars, charity drives, helping orphans etc. Earn rewards working for others.
- Don’t miss an opportunity for Dawah. When somebody asks you why you’re not eating, give them a beautiful explanation of Ramadan and Islam.
Stay healthy in Ramadan
Drink plenty of water and eat hydrating foods during Ramadan
Drink plenty of water between Iftar and Suhoor. As we sweat through the day, it is vitally important you replace the fluids in your body and keep yourself hydrated. You can also increase water intake by eating hydrating foods. Try adding watermelon to you Suhoor meal or eat it as a sweet treat after Iftar. Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and cola, because caffeine can make some people urinate more often, which then leads to dehydration. Also remember that fizzy drinks with sugar will add calories to your diet.
Consume the right foods at Suhoor to last through fasting hours
Suhoor should be a wholesome meal providing you with enough energy to last until Iftar. Choose the right foods to sustain you through the fast. Eating complex carbohydrates, such as fruit and vegetables, beans, chickpeas and lentils, will provide you with a long-lasting source of energy throughout the day. Include low fat dairy products with your meal and try to incorporate healthy unsaturated fats like avocado, unsalted nuts, salmon, olives and olive oil.
Replenish your energy levels by eating a healthy, balanced Iftar
Eating three dates to break your fast is a traditional and healthy way to begin Iftar. Dates are an excellent source of fiber and energy. Incorporate plenty of vegetables to provide vital vitamins and nutrients. Choose whole grains, which provide the body with energy and fiber. Enjoy grilled or baked lean meat, skinless chicken and fish, to get a good portion of healthy protein. In general, avoid fried and processed foods high in fat or sugar. Enjoy your meal and avoid overeating by eating slowly.
Giving Zakat Ul-Fitr (also known as Fitrana) is one of the many duties of the month of Ramadan and one of the pillars of Islam. Similarly, to Zakat, it involves giving a small amount to charity.
The purpose of Zakat Ul-Fitr is to enable those less fortunate than ourselves to celebrate Eid Ul-Fitr and mark the ending of Ramadan. It also signifies a token of appreciation for Allah SWT and being able to participate in such a blessed month. Zakat Ul-Fitr is obligatory for all Muslims regardless of age, gender or financial status, unless they really can’t afford to do so.
Zakat Ul-Fitr is to be paid on behalf of yourself and those who depend on you financially, an example of this is that a father can pay Zakat Ul-Fitr on behalf of all the people living in his household. The amount payable is universal for all Muslims and this very rarely exceeds £5.
Zakat Ul-Fitr must be paid before the Eid Ul-Fitr prayers after Ramadan.
How you can give, this Ramadan
One of the biggest teachings about Ramadan is that it is the month of giving. It’s the month we think about the poor and needy and give what we can. At SABA Relief we offer campaigns throughout the year to help those in need in Yemen, but like many of us, Ramadan holds a special place and is where we think most of the less fortunate the most.
Yemen is in the middle of a civil war which is ripping through the countries infrastructure. Even before the war broke out, Yemen was one of the poorest countries in the world. Now with over 16 million people lacking access to clean water and sanitation, Yemen is the worlds worst humanitarian crisis.
With our “Feed the Fasting” campaign we offer many ways of donating and also many options to donate towards. With donations starting at £5 to sponsor Iftar for one person all the way up to £100 to sponsor a family for the month, we have the chance for everyone to help.
You can donate online through our website, in our office in Sparkbrook, Birmingham and also by text message by texting “RAMADAN £20” to 70085. You can also donate to Yemen by our unique QR code which can be found on our marketing materials.