The month of Ramadan is the time of the year when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) from God through the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel). This is believed to have occurred on the 27th night of of the month, known as Laylat-ul-Qadr (Night of Power). However, the exact day is unknown and therefore Muslims are highly encouraged to fast especially in the last 10 nights of the month. One who fasts on the day of Laylat-ul-Qadr and prays Taraweeh (prayers every night of Ramadan) all night will be rewarded as if he/she has fasted for 1,000 months.
During the month of Ramadan fasting from food occurs from sunrise until sunset. During the day, Muslims are strongly recommended to spend extra time in prayer, reading Quran. Before sunrise, a special breakfast feast (called suhoor) during which individuals should eat as much as possible to gain energy for the day ahead. Fasting is one of five obligatory tasks (called the five pillars of Islam) that each Muslim must complete (if able to) in his/her life.
“Muslims believe that Satan (demons) are locked up in hell. Therefore, Muslims acknowledge that any wrongdoing would be considered as coming from their own character. Instead, Muslims should spend this month trying to become closer to God through prayer. The rewards that a Muslim receives during the rest of the year are multiplied during Ramadan. (example: outside of Ramadan, one already receives 10 counts of good deeds for each letter he/she recites of the Quran, those of which are then multiplied during Ramadan),” said Faizan Mohammed ‘20 who is an active member of Kalamazoo College’s Muslim Student Association (MSA).
After breaking fast (usually with dates and water) at sunset and praying the evening prayer (Maghrib), a special feast awaits. After the feast, Muslims prayer a special prayer each night called Taraweeh. During each of the 30 nights of the month, the prayer leader (Imam) recites 1 part per night out of 30 total parts of the Quran. Adults and older youth are encouraged to stay for the entirety of 20 rakats (movements of the prayer), although families often stay for a minimum of 8 rakats each night (due to external factors like work for parents and school for children).
“As the hours of fasting have increased as Ramadan has taken place in the Summer, the Taraweeh prayers finish late in the early morning. Muslims may choose to stay awake all night praying, eat suhoor, and then rest (given prayer may end at 1 am, and suhoor time may be at 3 for example),” said Mohammed.
Another obligatory task of every Muslim is to give Zakat (charity). Along with remembering the poor, each member of a family is required to donate a portion of money to charities with the intention of helping those in need.
“The reason that Ramadan begins approximately 10 days earlier than the previous year is due to the difference in the lunar calendar (which Muslims follow). This calendar has 355 days instead of 365 days like the gregorian calendar. Muslim events are set 10 days earlier every solar year,” said Mohammed.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims around the world celebrate Eid Al-Fitr. The exact date of this holiday is determined in accordance with the Lunar calendar (either the 30th or 31st day). The day of Eid determined according to whether or not there is a full moon, as seen in Saudi Arabia. If the moon shows, Eid follows the next day.
In the morning of Eid, Muslims gather at the mosque and listen to a sermon by the Imam. Muslims then pray the Eid Prayer. Following prayer, another feast full of treats and goods begins. Furthermore, Muslims are forbidden from fasting on Eid day. Eid lasts for 2-3 days, during which time a community may have several open houses to attend as well as carnivals and festivals. Family and friends exchange gifts with one another.
As Ramadan falls during this academic year, MSA would like to reach out to the K campus to provide information about this season.
“As many would think, fasting the entire day is not an easy task. One who fasts does feel exhausted the closer time is to break fast. And it does take time for one to adjust to not eating all day while otherwise continuing their normal everyday life. However, the one who fasts should also acknowledge that fasting is intended to test one’s patience. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims remember those around the world who live in poverty, who have little or nothing to eat year round. Ramadan is a time for individuals to count their blessings. Although the fasting is difficult, Muslims plan to have a feast at the end of the day. Consider the fact that those worldwide who are actually starving can’t simply anticipate a delicious feast every night, and one who is only fasting can’t really complain. The patience that Muslims develop during Ramadan is not simply meant to disappear after the month of Ramadan. Fasting is a reminder for individuals to be thankful for the food that they have been blessed with, and so one should never waste food. Again Muslims should remember the people who are poor year round. In addition, Muslims thank God for His mercy (example: if one were to truly forget that he was fasting and began eating, his fast is still considered valid as long as he/she stops immediately upon remembering. Yet this is a strong indicator of God’s mercy; if one forgets, that small amount of food that one ate can be considered a gift from God),” said Mohammed.
While fasting is an obligatory task for every Muslim, only those who are able to practice must do so. Infants, young children, the elderly, as well as the sick or injured are not obligated to fast. Those who are pregnant do not need to fast. Furthermore, necessities such as insulin for diabetics exempt these individuals from fasting (again another example of God’s mercy).
While fasting is not easy, Muslims come to love the month of Ramadan. The coming together of the community for feasting and prayer allows for much time to spend with friends and family (imagine staying up all night with friends; several times during the year, all night sessions may be organized in mosques, where students can spend the night praying and enjoying time with friends). In this way, Ramadan is a time for Muslims to strengthen bonds with one another.