What is Ramadan and why do Muslims fast all day?| MENAFN.COM

Friday, 28 January 2022 10:13 GMT

What is Ramadan and why do Muslims fast all day?


(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)

Millions of Muslims around the world on Monday marked the start of Ramadan, a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. Others will begin fasting a day later, Tuesday, due to a moon-sighting methodology that can lead to different countries declaring the start of Ramadan a day or two apart.

Here are some questions and answers about holiest month Ramadan:

WHY DO MUSLIMS FAST?

The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Ramadan is a time to detach from worldly pleasures and focus on one's inner self.

It's seen as a way to physically and spiritually purify, refraining from habits such as smoking and caffeine. Muslims often donate to charities during the month and feed the hungry. Many spend more time at mosques during Ramadan and use their downtime to recite the Holy Quran.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity, and performing the Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah.

HOW DO MUSLIMS FAST?

Observant Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan. A single sip of water is enough to invalidate the fast.

However, Muslim scholars say it's not enough to just avoid food and drinks during the day. Ramadan is also an exercise in self-restraint. Muslims are encouraged to avoid gossip and arguments.

Just before the fast, Muslims have a pre-dawn meal of power foods to get them through the day, the "Suhoor." Egyptians eat mashed fava beans called "ful," spiced with cumin and olive oil, while in Lebanon and Syria, popular suhoor food is flatbread with thyme, cheese or yogurt. In Afghanistan, people eat dates and dumplings stuffed with potato and leeks, first steamed, then fried.

HOW DO MUSLIMS BREAK THEIR FAST?

Muslims traditionally break their fast like the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did some 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset. That first sip of water is the most anticipated moment of the day.

In Pictures: Devotees enjoy the first Iftar of Ramadan

After sunset prayers, a large feast known as "Iftar" is shared with family and friends. Iftar is a social event as much as it is a gastronomical adventure. Across the Arab world, apricot juices are an Iftar staple. In South Asia and Turkey, yogurt-based drinks are popular.

In Pictures: Food kiosks offer tempting snacks during Ramadan

Every night of Ramadan, mosques and aid organisations set up tents and tables for the public to have free Iftar meals.

CAN MUSLIMS BE EXEMPTED FROM FASTING?

Many Muslims, particularly those living in the United States and Europe, are accepting and welcoming of others around them who aren't observing Ramadan.

However, non-Muslims or adult Muslims who eat in public during the day can be fined or even jailed in some Middle East countries. In many predominantly Muslim countries like Indonesia, karaoke bars and nightclubs are closed across much of the country for the month.

Restaurants there use curtains to conceal customers who eat during the day.

In China, minority Uighur Muslims complain of heavy restrictions by the Communist Party, such as bans on fasting by party members, civil servants, teachers and students during Ramadan, as well as generally enforced bans on children attending mosques, women wearing veils and young men growing beards.

WHAT ARE SOME RAMADAN TRADITIONS?

Typically, the start of the month is welcomed with the greeting of "Ramadan Kareem!" Another hallmark of Ramadan is nightly prayer at the mosque called "Taraweeh."

Egyptians have the tradition of Ramadan lanterns called the "Fanoos," often the centerpiece at an Iftar table or seen hanging in window shops and from balconies. In the Arabian countries, families hold "Majlises" where they open their doors for people to pass by all hours of the night for food, tea, coffee and conversation.

Increasingly common are Ramadan tents in five-star hotels that offer lavish and pricey meals from sunset to sunrise. While Ramadan is a boon for retailers in the Middle East and South Asia, critics say the holy month is increasingly becoming commercialised.

Scholars have also been disturbed by the proliferation of evening television shows during Ramadan. In Pakistan, live game shows give away gifts promoting their sponsors.

HOW DO MUSLIMS MARK THE END OF RAMADAN?

The end of Ramadan is marked by intense worship as Muslims seek to have their prayers answered during "Laylat Al Qadr" or "the Night of Destiny." It is on this night, which falls during the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that Muslims believe that God sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and revealed the first versus of the Holy Quran.

The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a three-day holiday called Eid Al Fitr. Children often receive new clothes, gifts and cash.

Muslims attend early morning Eid prayers the day after Ramadan. Families usually spend the day at parks and eating - now during the day.

Click here for Ramadan Special Coverage | Ramadan recipes | Ramadan health tips

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