What is Fasting?
Fasting for Muslims isn’t all about losing a few pounds to fit into your favourite jeans again! Though that can be a bonus for many people, it is actually a time to learn self restraint:
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Holy Quran, Surah 2 V 183)
Fasting in Islam means to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse between dawn and sunset. Depending on location, daylight can vary from 10hrs to 17 hrs and Muslims fast for the whole month of Ramadhan. At this time Muslims also take special care to refrain from impure thoughts and acts e.g. bad language, lying, violence etc (which should ideally be avoided at all times).
Fasting is one of the commandments of Islam but also has additional health benefits including, lowering blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, in most cases, loss of weight is also a bonus. It is also thought to help Muslims empathise with those people who are less fortunate. Ramadan is a time to gain extra rewards through worship, prayer, fasting and giving to the poor and needy. The entire month holds a special spiritual meaning for Muslims.
What is Ramdan?
Fasting during Ramadhan is one of the 5 basic tenets of Islam. The Quran, the holy book of Muslims was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) in the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The start of every month is based on the sighting of the new moon. This can cause confusion over the dates, so it’s common for Muslims to begin and end Ramadhan on different days.
During Ramadhan, Muslims perform additional special prayers. The most common prayer is Taraweeh, which is prayed 1½ hours after sunset. It can last from 30 minutes to 3 hours and is prayed either at home or at the mosque.
In the last ten days of Ramadhan, some Muslims may choose to enter Itikaaf. This is when they retreat to a corner of their house or mosque and commit themselves entirely to prayer and solitude, away from the distractions of the world.
Who does the fasting?
All Muslims fast except:
Charity in Ramadan – Sadaqah-ul-Fitr
This is a charity that is given by all Muslims, usually on the morning of Eid, to ensure that even the poor have something to eat on Eid, therefore it is traditionally given in food goods. Ramadhan is also a time when Muslims give abundantly to various charities. They also may take the opportunity to fulfil another tenet of Islam, which is to give Zakah – 2.5% of annual wealth to the poor.
Night of Power – Laylat-al-Qadr
Laylat al-Qadr is the holiest night of Ramadhan. It is traditionally observed on the 27th night of Ramadhan and marks the night when the Quran was first revealed. The night is better than a thousand months of worship so Muslims attempt to worship till late in the night. According to Muslims, Laylat Al-Qadr is also the night when the gates of heaven are wide open and angels descend on earth.
On the first day of the month after Eid, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. It is a time for Muslims to celebrate the fact that they’ve fasted for a month and to share their happiness and joy with their family and friends. Muslims go to the mosque to pray, give charity, and celebrate the completion of the fast of Ramadhan. Eid usually involves a large meal shared with family and friends, although what is eaten depends on individual choice and culture. Some Muslims celebrate Eid through excessive spending and immoral behaviour but this is not in the true spirit of Eid.