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An introduction to Ramadan

Ramadan, the Holy Month for Muslims, started last Saturday 2nd April. Nadia, Galloway’s Learning Skills and Lifestyle Co-ordinator, shares an introduction to Islam and the practice of fasting for Ramadan (also spelt Ramadhan).

About Islam

Islam is more than a belief system, it is a way of life. In order to be a Muslim, you need to implement Islamic practices into your daily life. Islam is embedded into every moment of the day, from when we wake up to when we go to sleep. The way we greet each other by saying ‘Peace be with you’ (‘Salaam Alaikum’), the things we think about before we pray, the way that we dress modestly. The aim of Muslims is to walk upon this earth with humility, to respect each other, and to appreciate the creation of God. We believe in His word and follow the teachings of the prophets.

The five pillars of Islam

Muslims follow the five pillars that hold up the religion of Islam.

  1. SHAHADAH Belief in one God and Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is the final messenger;

  2. SALAH Praying five times a day;

  3. SAWM Fasting for 30 days during the Holy month of Ramadan;

  4. ZAKAH Giving 2.5% of your wealth to charity each year;

  5. HAJJ The annual pilgrimage to Makkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

About Ramadan

Ramadan is a month of fasting and self-discipline. It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and the exact dates change every year because Islam uses a calendar based on the cycles of the Moon. Ramadan starts when the new Moon first appears in the night sky. This year in the UK, Ramadan began in the evening of Saturday 2nd April and will end on Sunday 1st May.

It’s a very exciting time of year for us, and an important month. It’s a time of unity, when Muslims all around the world are doing the same thing. We all have a similar routine, which is completely different from the rest of the year.

During Ramadan, we fast from dawn until dusk. We wake up early in the morning, a couple of hours before sunrise, for Suhoor (the start of the fast). We eat a healthy meal before the fast starts. Foods that are slow-release energy are a good idea to fuel you throughout the day.

In the UK at this time of year, the sun rises around 6.45am, so we start fasting from 4.45am. Once the fast has started, we do not eat, or drink or smoke until the sun sets again. In the UK, that is around 7.50pm. Throughout the month, sunrise will get earlier and sunset later, so the period of fasting becomes longer and longer.

The meal signalling the breaking of the fast is called Iftaar. We come together and break our fast with family and friends. The tradition is to break your fast with a date, which is nutritious and full of fibre. The dining table will be spread with so many different types of food. It’s an extravagant time, it’s a special event every evening!

There are many communal Iftaar events at mosques and in homes. We also run events to feed the homeless and ensure that other Muslims have the opportunity to observe the month of Ramadan.

Why do we fast?

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is obligatory for every adult Muslim. There are exemptions for people who are unwell mentally or physically, children who have not reached the age of puberty, people who are travelling, and people who are pregnant or menstruating. Anyone with a health condition like diabetes is exempt from fasting. If you rely on medication like eye-drops for your eye health, this is permitted.

Fasting carries many rewards, both physical and spiritual. We believe it improves our physical health and our relationship with food, helps us to be more humble and grateful, more conscious of Allah. It protects us from greed and encourages us to purify ourselves in heart, mind, body and soul. During Ramadan we are more conscious of what we look at, what we listen to and what we say. We see it as a time to be mindful of our contribution to the world and our effect on other people. Spending this month being so aware revives us for the rest of the year.

About Eid-ul-Fitr

After thirty days of Ramadan, we celebrate the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. The festival day begins with the sighting of the new moon. We dress up for the festival, decorate our homes and celebrate with friends and family. We gather together to share food, gifts and well wishes. There are communal celebrations held at mosques and outdoors, and we donate money to ensure all Muslims can enjoy the festival.

Accessibility for visually impaired Muslims

Islam is really progressive regarding accessibility. There are Braille versions of the Quran and large-text versions. You can listen to someone reading the Quran on Youtube to help you pray and there are also accessible tech devices. I have one called a Quran pen; you touch it to the bottom of a page, and it reads the page out loud for you. This gives you the sensation of reading a book, as you know when to turn the page. They are easy to source - I got mine from Amazon!

Nadia will be hosting a Ramadan Awareness session for our Thoughtful Thursday telephone group next week. Join us on Thursday 14th April at 2pm. Sign up for our telephone groups here.

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