Monday, 1 August 2011

Calendar Entry #33: Ramadan

We continue our journey through the Cauldrons Calendar feast/festival/holidays.
A hilal or slight crescent moon indicating the start of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Photograph - Roi.dogabert
The ninth month in the Islamic calendar is Ramadan.  It lasts between 29 and 30 days and is a month of fasting.  During daylight hours, Muslims will fast (refrain from eating or drinking) which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.  Muslims may eat before sunrise and after sunset.  A pre-dawn meal is called suhoor, while the evening meal is iftar.   There are exemptions for people who cannot fast.  Children are exempt as fasting is only a requirement after puberty.  People who are chronically sick, have a mental illness or are elderly are also exempt.  As are women who are pregnant if they believe fasting will put themselves or the baby at risk.  Additionally, menstruating women and breastfeeding women are also exempt, although they may have to make up the days later. Purity of thoughts and actions is something to be strived for, therefore activities like smoking or sex are also forbidden during daylight hours. 
This month is a time for self-evaluation and spiritual growth.  It is a time for patience, seen in the fasting, humility, in the charity (such as participation in food drives for the poor) that is encouraged, and spirituality, in a renewed effort to read the Qur'an.  Some Muslims try to read and recite the entire Qur'an by the end of Ramadan during special prayers called the Tarawih, held at the mosques each night of the month.  Ramadan teaches Muslims self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy for those who have less than they do.  Ramadan ends when the first crescent of the new moon is visible.