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Ramadan: A Guide to the Holy Month

By: Rafihat Banjo


Ramadan lantern
Photo by Ahmed Aqtai

Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims. Ramadan typically falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.


In 2021, Ramadan starts April 12 and ends May 12. Muslims observe Ramadan for 30 days straight. Muslims typically greet others with “Ramadan Mubarak,” which means “happy Ramadan,” or “blessed Ramadan.”


While Ramadan is the holiest time of the year, it is also the most sacred. During those 30 days, Muslims who celebrate Ramadan are required to fast from when it’s light outside to when it’s dark outside. Additionally, Muslims are required to pray five times a day.



Confession of Faith

There are five pillars of Islam. The first one is the confession of faith. Muslims believe there is only one god. There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. 



Prayer

The second pillar of Islam is prayer. As mentioned earlier, Muslims are required to pray five times a day. When praying, Muslims place their prayer rugs in the direction of Mecca. Mecca is a holy city located in Saudi Arabia.


Before praying, Muslims must cleanse themselves. The reason Muslims clean themselves is to become pure for Allah. They start by washing their face and arms with only water. Then they proceed to wipe their head with water. Lastly, they wash their feet before praying.


The first prayer usually starts at dawn. The second prayer usually falls after midday. The third prayer takes place during the afternoon. The fourth prayer happens when the sun sets. The final prayer takes place during nighttime.


Usually, I like to keep a strict schedule when it comes to praying. I don’t want to forget to pray or be asleep when it’s time to pray. Sometimes I use my phone to set alarms for each prayer, or I set reminders for myself on my computer.



Purify

The third pillar of Islam is to purify. In order to purify, Muslims give out money to those in need to purify their own wealth.



Fasting

The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting from when it’s light outside to when it’s dark outside. During Ramadan, we have to watch what we eat during the holy month. Some American foods are considered non-halal. Halal are acceptable foods and drinks according to Islamic laws. If the food or drink isn’t halal, it is considered haram. Haram means not allowed or forbidden.


For meat to be considered halal, a Muslim has to bless the animal before they kill it and cut it a certain way. It is considered haram for Muslims to eat animal blood, so the animal must be drained properly before eating.


Pork is also considered haram for Muslims. As a Muslim, I cannot eat foods or drinks that contain gelatin because some gelatin is made from pork. American foods, like marshmallows, Jell-O, gummy bears, candy corn, certain chewing gums, and some sugary cereals, contain pork gelatin. 



Hajj

Last but certainly not least, the fifth pillar of Islam is a trip to Hajj. Hajj is a religious journey to Mecca that a Muslim must take at least once in their life if they are able to. Hajj holds significance in Islamic culture; it allows Muslims to erase their past wrongdoings and start over. Personally, I haven’t gone yet, but I would love to go one day.


Not everyone can participate in Ramadan. People exempt from fasting during Ramadan include people who suffer from a chronic disease or illness, pregnant women, travelers, children under the age of 12, elders, and women who are breastfeeding. Menstruating women are also unable to fast or pray. To fast or pray, Muslims must maintain a state of purity and cleanliness, which is why Muslims cleanse themselves before praying. When women menstruate, they are unable to maintain a state of cleanliness which excuses them from praying or fasting.


If you cannot participate in Ramadan, people tend to feel guilty and feel pressured to make it up. Some people like to give money to those in need, while others like to fast after Ramadan is over to complete a full 30 days.


When I break my fast, it is tradition to break my fast with a pitted date. Pitted dates are significant to Islamic culture. Pitted dates are an excellent source of carbohydrates, fiber, and sugar to fuel our bodies with energy after fasting. If I do not have access to pitted dates, it is okay to break my fast with water. Water can be seen as purifying for the body.


During Ramadan, we have to watch what we say and do. There are a lot of activities that are considered haram that can affect and invalidate our fast. Activities considered haram include engaging in sexual activity, smoking, cursing, fighting, and gossiping.


Instead of keeping myself entertained with social media, music, or television, I take time to set short-term goals for myself. I also like to write. I take time to journal and keep a daily log of how I can improve myself during the 30 days of Ramadan. Sometimes, I like to wake up early and write positive words of affirmation to start my day.


On the last day of Ramadan, we celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which is the last day of fasting. Muslims go to the Mosques to pray and eat celebratory meals. Muslims greet others with “Eid Mubarak” to symbolize the end of fasting. “Eid Mubarak” means “blessed Eid” or “happy Eid.”


I am extremely grateful and blessed that I am healthy enough to participate in Ramadan each year. I love bringing awareness to different topics that aren’t usually spoken about most of the time. I understand that not everyone is super familiar with this religion, but I hope everyone can learn and become more culturally aware. 


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