The Holy Month of Ramadan

Shiven Rojasara, IIK Young Contributor
Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The holy month of Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month in the Hejira, or Islamic calendar. Because the Hejira calendar is 11 days shorter than the West's Gregorian calendar, the dates on which Ramadan falls vary according to the Gregorian calendar.

It is believed that Ramadan is the month in which the Koran was revealed to the prophet Mohammed.

During Ramadan, healthy Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, but children, the disabled, travellers, and those who are physically or mentally ill or pregnant are exempt. The fast, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, includes abstaining from food, drink, smoking, and sex during daylight hours. Muslims aim to maintain purity of thought and actions during Ramadan.

While non-Muslims are not required to fast while visiting or working in Saudi Arabia or other Gulf countries, and food can be purchased during daytime at the hospital cafeteria and/or restaurant, non-Muslims must avoid eating, drinking, chewing gum, smoking, etc. in public. During the fast, Muslim staff tend to work shorter hours.

But though it may not seem so to the non-Muslim eye, Ramadan is also a festive, family time. After the sunset prayer (Maghrib) rings out from the minarets, and the prayer is complete, it is time to break the fast with the Iftar meal - traditionally fresh dates and water or tea - followed by an actual meal. The large chain hotels in Saudi Arabia put on lavish Iftar buffets, at which Muslims and non-Muslims alike can feast together on delicious Arabic, Asian, meat, fish, vegetarian, and other dishes, desserts, almond cakes, and more!

Ramadan nights bustle with activity — families socialize and people flock to the malls and souqs, which are open extra- late, even into the wee hours of the morning. The holiday Eid al-Fitr (the "Feast of Fast-Breaking") marks the end of Ramadan and the start of the new month, Shawwal, and it is traditionally a time to give gifts to family and friends. The shopping centers are decked out with glitter, streamers, ornaments, and stars, and almost everything is on sale.

Shiven Rojasara
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