Here’s why your Muslim friends were fasting for a month
Indeed, it’s already too late for you to schedule an iftar (break fast session) with your Muslim friends now that the fasting month has ended.
But, we are here to clarify why your Muslim peers were turning down your lunch date for the whole four weeks. We also hope that these facts about the fasting month (Ramadan) provide you with a better understanding of the entire practice as a whole. Certainly, you could also perhaps try out fasting with your friends next year too.
Ramadan is regarded as the holiest month as it was said to be when the Quran (the holy book) was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. On top of that, the gates of heaven would be wide open for the entire month whilst the gates of hell would be closed. Thus, devils are chained up, allowing believers to focus on their relationship with God deeply.
The fasting month is referred to as Ramadan as well as Puasa — all similar terms equating to the holy month. ‘Ramadan‘ is derived from an Arabic word that is defined as the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. ‘Puasa’, on the other hand, is a Malay word referring to fasting.
Unlike the generic calendar, where the ninth month falls in September, it’s otherwise in Islam. The months of Islam are solely dependent on when the first crescent of the moon is sighted. Subsequently, the Islamic year is 11 days shorter, which explains why there isn’t a specific month where Muslims fast each year; like back in 1998, we even celebrated Kongsi (Gong Xi) Raya, when Chinese New Year and Hari Raya coincided.
Why do Muslims fast
Congregants performing pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia 2021 whilst maintaining social distancing
Muslims fast from dusk to dawn for 30 days yearly. It is when one does not consume water or food and increases their acts of worship.
Fasting serves as a reminder to us on what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty — to feel the sense of compassion and the duty to help the poor and needy.
It is also one of the five pillars of Islam, including the declaration of faith (Shahada), acts of giving (Zakat), praying five times a day (Solat) and pilgrimage to mecca (Haji).
In other words, it’s compulsory for all to fast with exceptions for the following:
- Young kids
- Frail elderly
- Females on their menstruation
- Pregnant ladies
- The disabled, including those with mental disorders
- Patients with chronic illness and those whose illness may worsen or have their healing process be delayed if they fast
- People who are travelling approximately 84km or more
That being said, except for the disabled and young kids, any days of fast that are missed must be “repaid” before the next Ramadan comes. As for the frail elderly and patients with chronic illness who are certainly not able to fast, their family members could then make a donation to the mosque, also known as Fidyah.
Practices in Ramadan
Dates. Image: @alezighetti
Typically, one will wake up for a pre-dawn meal also known as Sahur before the Fajr prayers at approximately 5.30 am. Essentially, this meal needs to fill one up till sunset; thus, it includes eating lots of high-protein food and drinking as much water.
According to the Quran, the prophets practised consuming seven pieces of dates and water — the reason why dates are a staple during Ramadan.
Apart from fasting from dusk to dawn for 30 days, one would also need to adhere to these regulations:
- No smoking
- No sexual activities
- Abstaining from negative thoughts and doings (swearing, gossiping, complaining etc.)
Alternatively, Muslims are then encouraged to read the Quran every day and perform optional prayers overnight known as Qiyammulai. Some may choose to listen to Islamic podcasts or prayer recitations instead of their usual playlist whilst commuting to work.
The specialty of Ramadan
Congregants separated into three zones during Terawih prayers this year.
Unlike other Islamic months, Ramadan is special as Terawih prayers are only performed during this month. This set of prayers are performed after the night prayer of the day and is an alternative way to earn extra points during the holy month, contributing to removing one’s past sins and wrongdoings.
It is usually done in a mosque or at home as a family. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, congregants heading to the mosque had to pre-book their slots online prior to the date of prayer (sample booking below).
Booking for Terawih prayers had to be made two weeks in advance.
Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore
Night of Power (Lailatulqadar)
Apart from accumulating as many deeds through the acts of worship in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims look forward to one night in particular — Lailatulqadar (Night of Power).
The date remains unknown to mankind, but scholars predicted it would fall on an odd night in the last ten days of the holy month.
What makes this one particular night special is because:
- All of one’s sins are forgiven
- When one does a good deed that night, it’s as though one has done the deed for 1000 months — it feels like a reward earned for your whole lifetime
- Any prayer made will be fulfilled
Celebration after Ramadan
Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore
After 30 days of fasting, that’s where Hari Raya Aidilfitri is observed. During this day, one then seeks forgiveness from each other and, of course, to feast.
Nonetheless, the month after Ramadan (month of Syawal) also allows one to chase for more “brownie points” by fasting another six days. The six days need not be done consecutively and could also be a good time to repay the missed fasts.
Feature image by @masjidyusofishak