By: Nawal Samdani
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is one of the most sacred time for Muslims. This year, Ramadan will take place from the evening of March 22 to the evening of April 20. During this month, Muslims observe a daily fast from dawn until sunset. This month is also filled with worship, service, communal gathering and spiritual development. Fasting is seen as an act of worship to gain further closeness with God as well as a form of spiritual disciple and a means to empathize with those less fortunate.
Fasting is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam. These five principles – Profession of Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting, and Pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca – are compulsory acts ordered by Allah, the Arabic word for God.
The fast is started with a meal called suhoor before sunrise, and broken at sundown with a meal called iftar, often shared with family and friends.
While not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset is an important aspect of the Ramadan experience, it is most certainly not the only part of the month.
Ramadan allows Muslims to connect with their inner selves and reflect upon their progress to becoming a better Muslim and person. This month of reflection and sacrifice compels Muslims to think of those who do not have regular access to meals and drinks. Muslims are called upon to consider their shortcomings in every aspect of their life while enabling them to strengthen their bond with God.
Tahiya Alvi, a senior at IU South Bend who observes the month of Ramadan, said, “Ramadan is a time for me to reflect on myself and my relationship with Allah. This month teaches me patience and reminds me of the power that my mind holds over my actions and behaviors.”
She said that this month teaches her discipline and allows her to practice mindfulness throughout her day.
“I also find myself being more aware of my actions towards other people, such as being kinder and more helpful to those in need,” Alvi said.
During Ramadan, most Muslims go to the mosque and spend several hours praying. In addition to the five daily prayers that are part of the core of Islam, Muslims recite a special prayer called The Taraweeh prayer, also known as the night prayer.
The dates of Ramadan fluctuate yearly. It officially begins when the crescent moon coincides with the astrological new moon. When the sighting occurs, Saudi Arabia’s Moon Sighting Committee announces the official dates.
The holiday commemorating the end of fasting is called Eid al-Fitr. The Eid holiday marks the end of Ramadan. It consists of a congregational prayer in the morning followed by visiting friends and family. Gifts are exchanged and friends and families gather for festive meals.