Ramadan is the ninth month of the Hijra (Islamic) calendar. Since the Hijra calendar is based on the lunar cycle, it is shorter than the Gregorian calendar. Hence all the Hijra months, including Ramadan, traverse the year and the seasons. Ramadan is a very blessed time, perhaps the holiest time of the year for Muslims. It is a time of many special blessings and a time when Muslims concentrate even more on pleasing ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala (see Note below), the CREATOR.
Why Ramadan is important?
The month is significant in that most of the Divine guidance was revealed during this month, including the Quran, the book of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), alaihis salaam (peace be upon him), the Torah (Old Testament) and the Injeel (New Testament).
The Purpose of Fasting
Ramadan is most recognized as the Muslim month of fasting. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and during the month of Ramadan, all able Muslims are required to fast, as directed in the Noble Quran: "O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed upon you as it was prescribed upon those before you, that you may learn self-restraint and GOD-consciousness..." This purpose of the fast is clearly stated here: to attain a higher level of self-restraint, and a greater awareness of our CREATOR. It is also made clear that fasting is not unique to Muslims, in fact it was required of the people before the revelation of the Quran. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, every day of the month. This requires a total abstinence from food, drink, smoking and marital relations. Muslims are not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages at any time and smoking is always discouraged and many Islamic scholars consider it to be forbidden.
A Time of Increased Prayer
Ramadan is much greater than just fasting and abstinence. It is a time of increased worship and remembering the CREATOR. During Ramadan, Muslims make an extra effort to attend all the 5 daily prayers in the Masjid (Mosque). There are additional prayers that are held after the night prayer, referred to as Taraweeh salat. You will find Muslims participating in this throughout the Muslim communities. Muslims make a special effort to recite the Quran more frequently and spend their nights in acts of worship and remembrance, forgoing sleep.
Food and Prayer during the night
Muslims are encouraged to partake in Suhur, a light snack taken during the night, prior to dawn. Suhur is considered a blessing to the Muslim and many stay up after this snack to read and recite the Quran or to perform other enriching activities until the time of the Fajr salat (Dawn prayer). Of course, voluntary prayers are encouraged at all times. (There are some brief periods when prayer is not allowed.) In fact, praying during the middle of the night is always encouraged and is normally practiced consistently by those who have achieved a high degree of GOD-consciousness.
Breaking the fast
Breaking the fast at sunset becomes a special time, when a Muslim can be thankful for having observed the fast throughout the day, seeking ALLAH's Subhanahu wa ta'ala reward, and having the opportunity to eat so they will have the strength to fast again the next day.
Purpose of Ramadan
Muslims strive to improve their lives and their demeanour during Ramadan and hope to carry that improvement throughout the year. Ramadan is a time when Muslims remind themselves of their duties to ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, to their families and to their fellow man and the environment. They make a special effort to be more pleasant and to be more generous. This carries through to the rest of the year.
Ending of Ramadan
As the month of Ramadan ends (dependent upon the sighting of the new moon), ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, has ordained that Muslims should observe a holiday, called Eid-ul-Fitr, the holiday to break the fast of Ramadan. Muslims are required to make a provision (known as Fitra) to those less fortunate than themselves before the holiday arrives. This is to ensure everyone can enjoy the Eid without the concern of wanting of food or clothing.
Those unable to fast
For those unable to fast due to age, illness, travelling or other hardship, alternatives have been provided. They should make up the fast when their condition subsides. If it is permanent, they must feed a needy person, preferably a fasting one, with the same quality and quantity of food they will eat.
Ramadan affecting the whole of life
Each year, as we grow older and fast for the many more months of Ramadan to come, we face a constant reminder of how we must act in order to be the ideal Muslims most admired by Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. Enforcing good deeds during Ramadan helps us turn an annual tradition into a way of life. Although the month of Ramadan is completed in a mere 30 days (more or less), its teachings live on in an endless continuum and mould our hearts and minds into those of a sincere, humble believer.
- Implications of Ramadan for staff and students
Subhanahu wa ta'ala means Glory be to HIM, the exalted, and is one of the phrases used to Glorify ALLAH. (Some form of glorification is always recited after reciting the name of ALLAH.)