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Muslim Fasting Month

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How Muslims Fast During Ramadan

Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims, who believe that it was during this month that God revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan is also a time of fasting, prayer, charity, and self-reflection for Muslims around the world.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and it is obligatory for all adult Muslims who are physically and mentally capable of doing so. Fasting means abstaining from food, drink, smoking, sexual activity, and any sinful behavior from dawn to sunset. The purpose of fasting is to purify the soul, increase devotion to God, and develop empathy for the less fortunate.

When is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon. The lunar calendar is about 10 or 11 days shorter than the solar calendar, which means that Ramadan shifts every year and can occur in any season.

The start and end of Ramadan are determined by the sighting of the crescent moon, which may vary depending on the location and weather conditions. Some Muslims follow the local moon sighting, while others follow the global or Saudi sighting. In 2024, Ramadan is expected to start on March 11 and end on April 8, but these dates may change depending on the moon sighting.

How do Muslims fast?

Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day during Ramadan. The dawn is calculated as the time when the white thread of light becomes distinguishable from the black thread of night on the horizon. The sunset is calculated as the time when the sun disappears below the horizon.

Before dawn, Muslims wake up for a pre-dawn meal called suhur, which helps them to sustain their energy throughout the day. Suhur can consist of any food or drink, but it is recommended to eat healthy and nutritious food and drink plenty of water.

After sunset, Muslims break their fast with a meal called iftar, which is often shared with family and friends. Iftar can also consist of any food or drink, but it is customary to start with dates and water or milk, following the example of Prophet Muhammad. Some Muslims also perform additional prayers called tarawih after iftar.

What are the exceptions and exemptions?

Not all Muslims are required or expected to fast during Ramadan. There are some exceptions and exemptions for those who are unable or exempted from fasting due to various reasons.

Some of these reasons include:

  • Being too young or too old to fast
  • Being pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating
  • Being sick, injured, or chronically ill
  • Being diabetic or having other medical conditions that require regular medication or food intake
  • Being traveling or on a journey
  • Facing extreme hunger or thirst that may endanger one’s life

Those who are temporarily unable to fast due to some of these reasons are expected to make up for the missed days after Ramadan or before the next Ramadan. Those who are permanently unable to fast due to some of these reasons are expected to pay a compensation called fidyah, which is feeding a poor person for each missed day.

What are the benefits and challenges of fasting?

Fasting during Ramadan has many benefits and challenges for Muslims. Some of these include:

  • Fasting strengthens one’s faith and relationship with God by increasing one’s dependence on Him and gratitude for His blessings.
  • Fasting enhances one’s spiritual awareness and self-discipline by controlling one’s desires and impulses.
  • Fasting improves one’s physical health and well-being by detoxifying the body and regulating the metabolism.
  • Fasting fosters one’s social solidarity and generosity by sharing food and resources with others and supporting charitable causes.
  • Fasting faces one’s psychological resilience and patience by coping with hunger, thirst, fatigue, and other difficulties.
  • Fasting tests one’s moral character and integrity by avoiding lying, cheating, backbiting, gossiping, and other vices.

How do Muslims celebrate after Ramadan?

After completing the month of fasting, Muslims celebrate a festival called Eid al-Fitr, which means “the festival of breaking the fast”. Eid al-Fitr is a day of joy, gratitude, forgiveness, and unity for Muslims.

On Eid al-Fitr, Muslims perform a special prayer in the morning, preferably in a large congregation. They also pay a charity called zakat al-fitr, which is giving a certain amount of food or money to the poor before the prayer. They also dress in their best clothes, exchange greetings and gifts, visit their relatives and friends, and enjoy various festivities and delicacies.

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