So I realize that I sort of glazed over Ramadan last year, and briefly posted about it once it was over. The beginning of Ramadan is just about to start, and that means a lot to the Muslims (and non-Muslims) in this country, and many other countries.
Here is a quick, but basic overview of what Ramadan is, and how it affects Muslims and non-Muslims living in Middle Eastern countries. (Some of this information is taken from Time Out Doha’s article about Ramadan in an interview with Mohammed Ali Al Ghadimi, director of the Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre.).
Q: What is Ramadan?
A: It’s a month to concentrate on the revelation of the Q’uran. Allah says: ‘Ramadan is the month in which the Q’uran was revealed as a guidance and clarification to humankind and a distinction between right and wrong…(Q’uran 2:185). During the holy month, Muslims will read the Q’uran more, and focus on the lessons it teaches.
Q: The main element of Ramadan is fasting. Why do the Muslims do this?
A: Muslims do not only fast, they also abstain from sexual relations, and bad habits such as swearing and smoking from sunrise to sunset. From the Q’uran: ‘O believers! Fasting has been prescribed for you in order that you may become more conscious of God'(Q’uran 2:183). Fasting is something that is only known to you and God – no one is aware if you cheat during the day or not. Also, the feeling of being hungry makes you feel empathy for those that feel hungry daily through out the world. This helps us to feel closer to humanity and appreciate the many blessings in our lives.
Q: What is Iftar?
A: Iftar is the evening meal at sundown when Muslims convene with friends and family and break the fast together. A date is usually the first thing to be consumed before the big Iftar meal. Non-Muslims are welcome to join in on the Iftars, and even fasting if they want to understand what its like.
Q: How should Non-Muslims act?
A: Non-Muslims need to respective and understanding, and not eat or drink in public during the day. They should also dress more conservatively than usual, as this is a very serious, religious time for Muslims. Most restaurants and coffee shops will be closed during the day, but then will have late hours once open at sunset. If you are found drinking water, eating, or chewing gum, you could get a ticket or be put in jail for the month. So be careful!
Q: Ramdan ends with an Eid al-Fitr celebration. What is this?
A: Eid Al-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of the month of Shaw – the tenth month of the Muslim calendar. This is a joyous occasion, as Muslims celebrate all the blessings that Allah has given them for fulfilling their promise of fasting and other good deeds during the Ramadan month.
Hope this helps a little to explain the holy month of Ramadan that occurs in hundreds of Middle Eastern cities and countries around the globe. If you have questions, feel free to post in the comments! And if you know any friends celebrating Ramadan, be sure to wish them Ramadan Kareem!