Ramadan Karim 2017
Every year, actually eleven days earlier than the year before because of the Muslim lunar calendar, I take some time to write an article to explain what Ramadan means to me and to the Muslim community around the world and especially in America and why it is celebrated every year.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. It is the holiest month of the year, because it is the month “in which the Quran was revealed for the guidance of mankind.” The Muslim calendar year is a sequence of 12 lunar months totaling 354 days, so that 33 Muslim years equal about 32 solar years. The Muslim calendar year is shorter than the solar year by approximately eleven days. Consequently, the month of Ramadan sometimes falls in the heat of the summer months, like the last couple of years making the burden of the fast heavier and perhaps the sense of fulfillment greater. So, you can get the idea of how much Ramadan moves around through the years.
In the year 1999 Ramadan was from Dec. 9- Jan. 7. In the year 2000, it was from Nov. 27-Dec. 25, the last day of Ramadan fell on Christmas. In the year 2003 it was Oct 27- Nov 25 and in 2013 it was July 9-August 7 and 2014 it was 11 days earlier on June 28 – July 27 and this year it will be from May 27 – June 25.
During this month, Muslims who choose to perform the fourth pillar of Islam which is a month-long daytime fast. Fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan is worthier than fasting at any other time. Referring to Ramadan, the Quran says, “O people, a blessed month is coming near with one night better than 1,000 months.” Whoever is in good health during Ramadan is required to fast the entire month; and whoever is sick or on a journey shall fast the number of days missed at a later date. Children below the age of puberty and the aged are exempt. Ramadan is a month of mercy, during which the soul is purified and the body is cleansed.
A religious committee in each Muslim country is designated to watch for the new moon., at the first sight of the Hilal (crescent), they announce the beginning of the fast, the word is communicated in a public announcement to all people. Today many of us get our information from special calendars on the internet. As a child growing up overseas during the month of Ramadan, a male volunteer used to wake my neighborhood every night by beating his drum and knocking on doors to rise and eat before dawn, which is called Sohour, families would wake prior to dawn. When “so much of the dawn appears that a white thread may be distinguished from a black one, people stop eating their early breakfast meal so as to ease of going the whole day without food and water.
The month of Ramadan is not only a month of “moral abstinence,” it also has the social virtue of creating new bonds of understanding between all classes of people.
The fast, practiced by rich and poor alike, reminds the more fortunate members of society of the pain of hunger that the poor suffer. Ramadan is especially a month of charity.
Islam has been influenced by concepts of preceding religions. In fasting, as well as in other concepts, Islam was built upon practices found in both Judaism and Christianity. Fasting was developed from the Christian idea of Lent and from the Judaic idea of the Day of Atonement. Islam regards fasting as a mean of achieving spiritual, moral, and physical discipline of the highest order. Muslims perform acts of kindness and charity during Ramadan. I like to imagine a world where we take this focus on kindness and charity and extend it during the year. When we continue to do just one daily act of kindness, we can improve this world of ours for all of us.
Fasting in Ramadan is a demanding spiritual discipline and raises our awareness of our vulnerability as human beings, rich or poor. Ramadan is a time of serious reflection but it is not focused on repentance. It is a time of acknowledging how similar we all are regardless of background, socio-economic status or where we live.
At sunset, Muslims traditionally begin dinner with a bowl of soup, apricot juice or a date, and then they eat a full meal. Ramadan nights are joyful times. After dinner, children play and relatives and friends visit each other and stories are told and games are played.
When Ramadan falls during the summer months or those celebrating live in warm climates, the workday is usually shortened. In the evenings, many kinds of foods are prepared to be eaten after breaking the daily fast at sundown. Most shops and cafes remain open all night, Mosques are well-lit and packed with worshippers. Muslims recite excerpts from the Quran each day, and strive to finish the entire Quran by the 27th night of Ramadan to celebrate when God revealed the first versus of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed in Mecca. During the fasting days, people greet each other by saying Ramadan Karim (Ramadan is generous) and people answering Allahu Akram (God is the most generous).
The breaking of final fast at the end of Ramadan is known as the holiday Eid Al-Fitr. People greet each other by saying, Eid Mubarak, which means blessed celebration. Happiness becomes greater when the month of fasting is finally completed and Eid Al-Fitr is celebrated. The most beautiful dishes are served at large feasts to which relatives and friends are invited. This is a time when there is a great sense of accomplishment. A month of fasting and sacrifice, increasing the sense of community with one another and God.
There are people in this world that want to focus on our differences to create fear and mistrust. I choose to focus on our similarities. We are all human beings who share in the universal bond of love. As some people choose hate and anger, I always want to choose love and peace.
In spite of all that is going in this world we should never ignore all the blessings that surround us. The torch of goodness, peace, love, understanding, diversity, tolerance are still alive.. There are so many good people in this world that continue to believe that celebrating each other’s way of living is what this world needs, not just around the holidays but throughout the year. As much as we think of the differences, our similarities are what always shine through. I am just like the millions of American Muslims and the billions of Muslims around the world who love celebrating Ramadan and I loved sharing my thoughts with you, because sharing, peace and love are gifts we give each other! Ramadan Karim and peace be with you.