Muslims around the world use the beginning of May to prepare for Ramadan and Holy Month. Ramadan is an important part of the Muslim faith. In 2018 it will start near the middle of May and will take place until the middle of June. It includes prayer, fasting from sun up until sundown every day, giving to charity, and nightly feasts.
Why Do Muslims Fast During Ramadan?
Muslims fast to remember those less fortunate who are suffering, to become closer to God, and to step back from worldly pleasures. They also fast from things like smoking, caffeine, and arguments as they focus on purifying themselves physically and spiritually. (Children, the elderly, those who are unwell, pregnant women, and those travelling are exempt from fasting.)
Fasting during Ramadan is called Sawm and is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The other Pillars are: reciting the Muslim profession of faith with sincerity, performing ritual prayers, charity to help the poor and needy, and a pilgrimage to Mecca.
How is Eid Connected to Ramadan?
Eid al-Fitr is the festival that happens after Ramadan ends for the year. It often includes dressing in new outfits and visiting the homes of friends and family to share gifts. Many families take this time to share with others less fortunate and to ensure everyone is able to celebrate Eid.
Eid al-Adha is the ‘festival of sacrifice’ that happens about 70 days after Ramadan ends. It marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) and traditionally is a time to slaughter animals. The meat from the slaughter is often divided into thirds: one third for family, one third for relatives and friends, and one third to the less fortunate.
How Can Non-Muslims Participate?
Non-Muslims often join in the fasting together with Muslims and break their fast together during iftar (the meal that ends each day’s fast after sunset). This is a time to celebrate community and generosity. Along those lines, giving to charities is a wonderful way to participate in Ramadan for people from all backgrounds.
During the daylight hours when Muslims are fasting it is considered poor etiquette to eat or drink in public. Reserve these activities for private indoor spaces during Ramadan. Some establishments will provide screened-off areas to give privacy for those wishing to eat or drink during the daytime.
Other ways of showing respect include dressing conservatively, keeping music quiet or using headphones, and giving extra consideration for traffic during the time close to sundown when people are on their way to iftar, and checking business operating hours before making plans as these can vary during Ramadan.
Ramadan begins : Thursday 17 May, 2018
Ramadan ends: Saturday 16 June, 2018