Ramadan: An opportunity to be the change that you wish to see in the world.

Posted on 5/21/2017

“Each year, the month of Ramadan brings with itself a chance to begin again.”

A new chance at life, the spirit of Ramadan is about forgiveness, taking care of each other and remembering the Almighty and a little more.

Ramadan greetings start to come in, in person, over phone and social media “Ramadan Mubarak!” (Have a blessed Ramadan) or “Happy Ramadan Kareem!” (Have a generous Ramadan) once the moon is sighted…

The date of Ramadan is determined by the lunar calendar, so it falls about 11 days earlier each year than it did the year prior. The task of fasting is considerably more demanding when Ramadan falls in the summer months, as there are many more hours of daylight and warmer temperatures can be taxing on the body. This year, Ramadan will coincide with the summer-- the precise beginning of the lunar month—can only be confirmed by the sighting of a slender crescent moon in the sky. Prominent mosques or committees of Muslim scholars often hold meetings to deliberate the sightings, sometimes leading to rival dates for the beginning and end of Ramadan.

Ramadan is believed to be the holiest month of the year within Islam, and the month in which the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. In this month, the gates to heaven are believed to be open and the gates to hell closed. Muslims are instructed to fast in the Surat Al-Baqarah, the second and longest chapter of the Quran.
The Arabic word for fasting—sawm—doesn't only refer to abstaining from food or drink. It translates literally to "refrain" and encompasses self-discipline from food, drink, having sex, and all evil thoughts and deeds in the interest of self-purification. The fast is as much of an external act as it is an internal one. It is about purifying our inner sense of self and our relation with Allah. Our relation with Allah is strengthened by our good deeds, good intentions and the purity of our inner character. Ramadan is also about refraining from things that could put a black spot in our heart and soul. So take a moment to introspect and question what all do we do in our daily lives that may harm the purity of our heart, mind, and soul. Once you know, make a daily effort to break those habits and steer yourself towards things that nurture your inner self and the world around you and things that bring you closer to Allah. Work on being a good person; be kind, be gentle, be helpful and be a source of comfort to the people around you. If you feel there is room for improvement in becoming a better person, make a mindful effort to do more good and abstain from evil.

Ramadan lasts the longest and is cherished deeply by Muslims all over the world. We as Muslims are expected to abstain from food, drinks and worldly engagements and desires while observing fasts. But is that all Ramadan is about? Definitely not! This is because even just the simple act of abstention makes manifest a wave of goodness that is hidden in us all.

We all must have felt it at one time or another that there is something about the spirit of Ramadan that makes us all come together as one Muslim Ummah. The whole month, there is an air of calm and serenity where people leave behind the sins of the past and try to do good that God Almighty expects of us. It is almost like turning over a new leaf.

Ramadan is a month of fasting, praying to Allah, Quran Recitation and an opportunity to bring about change in self. It’s a month jam packed with blessings and unlimited rewards for this life and the Hereafter. It serves as a channel to strengthen our bonds with Allah (SWT) and reignites our sense of reverence, remembrance, humility and humanity.

The purpose of fasting is not to take a take lose weight diet, it is something much more. Fasting means refraining from eating, drinking or engaging in any kinds of sinful activity from dawn will dusk for a higher purpose of pleasing Allah .Moreover, the act of fasting extends to a spiritual level as well, whereby we have to curtail our anger, jealousy, and self-interests. We are to engage in good deeds and worship throughout the month and abstain from negativity and evil acts.

Those of us who are either sick, pregnant, traveling, on their monthly period are all exempted from fasting. People of old age and children are also exempted from fasting

If you are not fasting, be kind and considerate to your fellow Muslims who are fasting around you. Take care to not eat or drink in front of them or offer them food, which may make their fast a bit difficult. There is nothing wrong with eating or drinking if you are not fasting, given that you have a valid reason. But just be mindful of those around you and try not to make things hard for the fasting Muslims around you. Fasting in this month is far from unpleasant; it is something all Muslims look forward to. There is a certain sense of peace and joy we attain from the whole spirit of Ramadan and dedicating ourselves Allah. For Muslims, it is a celebration with loved ones.

To prepare for the fast, Muslims eat what is commonly called “suhoor,” a pre-dawn meal of power foods to get them through the day.

Muslims observing the holy month break the daily fast with an evening meal called Iftar, Muslims traditionally break their fast like the Prophet Muhammad did some 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset. That first sip of water is by far the most anticipated moment of the day.

After a sunset prayer, a large feast known as “iftar” is shared with family and friends. Iftar is a social event as much as it is a gastronomical adventure. Across the Arab world, juices made from apricots are a staple at Ramadan iftars. In South Asia and Turkey, yogurt-based drinks are popular.

Across the Muslim world, mosques and aid organizations set up tents and tables for the public to eat free iftar meals every night of Ramadan.

Another hallmark of Ramadan is nightly prayer at the mosque among Sunni Muslims called “taraweeh.”

In Kuwait, a common sight during Ramadan is a lantern called the “fanoos,” which is often the centerpiece at an iftar table and can be seen hanging in window shops and balconies.

In the Arabian Gulf countries, wealthy hold “diwaniya” where they open their doors for people to pass by all hours of the night for food, tea, coffee and conversation.

The end of Ramadan is marked by intense worship as Muslims seek to have their prayers answered during “Laylat al-Qadr” or “the Night of Destiny.” It is on this night, which falls during the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that Muslims believe that God sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad and revealed the first versus of the Quran.

Some devout Muslims go into reclusion those final days, spending all of their time in the mosque.

The month ends with the celebration of “Eid-ul-Fitr” where all Muslims come together to rejoice at the successful completion of Ramadan and have food and festivities with their loved ones. It’s a month laden with a certain sense of solidarity and comradeship with fellow Muslims around the world, who engage in fasting and good deeds for a common purpose. Children often receive new clothes, gifts and cash.

The holy month of Ramadan is all about awakening a sense of community, brotherhood, compassions and charity among people. It is about reconnecting with Allah and His beautiful creation. It is about taking the means that Allah has blessed you with and using them to help the poor and those in need. It is about being endlessly grateful for all the blessings and sustenance Allah has bestowed us with. It is a joyous and sacred occasion for every human, not just Muslims, to revisit our spiritual roots and reflect. It is a month of changing for the better and doing it out of love for our Creator and Sustainer- Allah.

Nasrin Ejner MBA (International Business) CSU, Sydney, Australia
B.E. (Petrochemicals) MIT, Pune, India

Compiled by Nasrin Ejner

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