The holy month of Ramadan begins tomorrow evening.
Our fellow Muslim Blazers are preparing for the holiest month of the year. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a period marked by focused reflection, introspection and self-improvement. It is observed by more than two billion Muslims around the world.
The Islamic calendar is based on a 12-month lunar year, and since a lunar year ends 11 days earlier than a solar year, Ramadan starts on a different day every year in a 33 year period. This year, the holy month of Ramadan is predicted to begin this Friday evening, April 1, and ends on the evening of Sunday, May 1.
Ramadan celebrates the revelation of the Quran, Islam’s holy text. It is believed that on the Laylat al-Qadr, or “Night of Power,” (which usually falls around the 27th day of Ramadan) God revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad as “guidance for the people.” During this period, Muslims emphasize greater devotion to Allah as they spend more time reading the Quran and performing special prayers.
Fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam, is an important Ramadan tradition. Depending on the time of year Ramadan occurs, Muslims fast between 11-16 hours for 29-30 days. They wake up before dawn to have a large meal, suhur, and break their fast at sundown with iftar.
The observance of a fast from sunrise to sundown every day of the month cultivates self-control, gratitude and compassion for those less fortunate. Freshman Siham Tihar, member of Blair’s Muslim Students Association (MSA), explained how fasting cultivates gratefulness. “It's a month where Muslims and I get to connect to people that are less fortunate than me. When I'm hungry, I think, there's people out there that do not get food like me,” Tihar said. Though fasting during Ramadan is mandatory for all Muslim adults, the elderly, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and those of poor health are exempt.
Fasting is not only physical purification; it is also a symbol for the spiritual purification that Ramadan encourages as well. During the month, Muslims are also expected to avoid engaging in any wrongful behavior that may hurt others or themselves, including gossiping, lying and arguing. Muslims who are married also abstain from sexual activity during these hours.
Muslims view Ramadan as an annual opportunity to actively pursue moral excellence and bring themselves closer to God. Central to this idea is the concept of taqwa, an Islamic term in Arabic that has been defined as “God consciousness.” Muslims are encouraged to gain taqwa and to inculcate a constant awareness of God. Muslims attempt to read the Quran in its entirety, and it is recited during the special nightly tarawih prayers.
MSA member freshman Hanim Shafi talked about how her family, along with many other Muslim families, meet for iftar. “Most of the time my family and I go to other people's houses and we usually like to bring stuff there. It's beautiful – just going to other people's houses, breaking fast together, praying together,” Shafi said.
Shafi was not the only Blazer who spoke about the emphasis on community during Ramadan. Junior Areeb Gani, also a member of the Muslim Students Association, discussed the importance of togetherness. “During Ramadan, I get to see my Muslim friends every night when we go to pray. I think overall, knowing that other people are also doing the same thing as you – fasting and praying – emboldens solidarity and community among Muslims,” Gani explained.
Gani also spoke about the challenges that students sometimes face during Ramadan. “Normally, school itself is a lot – the work, the daily life.” But Ramadan can make it more difficult. “I need to go to sleep an hour later than normal, I need to get up an hour earlier than normal, and then maybe try to go back to sleep again. So I'm naturally really tired throughout the day, in addition to the fact that I can't eat or drink,” Gani said.
However, Gani and others emphasized that the benefits of Ramadan are worth the hours of fasting. They spoke about how the month gave them the opportunity to move away from their busy lives and connect with God and their loved ones.
Ramadan comes to an end with the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr. On the morning of Eid, families attend special prayers at the mosque and later exchange gifts, eat food and socialize. Eid Mubarak is the traditional holiday greeting, so be sure to wish your Muslim friends Eid Mubarak on May 3!
Maya Britto. Hey, I'm Maya (she/her) and this year, I am co-Editor-in-chief of SCO! I'm passionate about social justice, music, dance, food, quality time with my friends, ice cream (but strictly vanilla), and good bad jokes. Stay cool, y'all. :) More »