Ramadan is fast approaching. As you can see from the name in my blog I am living in Bahrain. This year Ramadan is scheduled to start on the 18th of June and will continue for 30 days until Friday, the17th July. In the Muslim calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will celebrate Ramadan on the sunset of Wednesday, the 17th of June.
These dates are based on astronomical calculations to affirm each date, and not on the actual sighting of the moon with the naked eyes.
Many non-Muslim might not know what Ramadan is exactly? Ramadan, the ninth month on the Muslim calendar, it is celebrated as the month when the first verses of the Quran were said to be revealed to the prophet Muhammad in 610 CE.
The fast of Ramadan is rigorous during the best of times. In Bahrain during long and hot summer days, it may be required observe the fast for as many as sixteen or more hours at a time. Pretty tough going in this heat where temperatures soar well into the high 40 degrees.
So you might ask “What is the purpose of Ramadan?” During Ramadan, observers are expected to abstain from food, drink, and other pleasures from dawn to dusk. Removing these comforts from daily routine is intended to focus the mind on prayer, spirituality, and charity and to purify the body and mind. So, fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the total commitment of the person's body and soul to the spirit of the fast.
Several different groups are excused from fasting during Ramadan: pregnant women, people who are mentally or physically ill, and sometimes women who are breastfeeding. Children are not obligated to fast until they hit puberty, although many choose to observe the fast at least part of the month in preparation for later years.
Workdays here in Bahrain are made shorter during the month to accommodate the additional time spent in prayer and in enjoying festive meals to end the daily fast.
While most non-Muslims know of Ramadan for the fasting, charity is also an important part of the month long holiday. Muslims are obliged to give charity on a regular basis in the form of either Zakat, which is mandatory giving, or Sadaqa, which is voluntary and meant to go beyond the mere religious obligations. During Ramadan, the rewards of charity are considered greater. As a result, many Muslims will choose to give more during the month.
In case you didn’t know Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, the practices that all Muslims must follow the other four being “Shahadah - sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith, “Salat” performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day, “Zakat” paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy & “Hajj” pilgrimage to Mecca.
The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al Fitr, a large festival to celebrate the end of the fast. The celebration begins as soon as the new moon is sighted in the sky. During Eid, Muslims celebrate by putting on their best clothing, attending large processions, giving gifts, spending time with their family, and having a large meal during the day. A little bit like Christmas day to me, not that I want to compare.
So there you go I do hope you may have gotten a little insight in the Holy Month of Ramadan.
I'll sign off for now.
Aisling in Bahrain.