The Fasting Month for Muslims (Submitters in English Language)
Islam (Submission to God) is one of the world's three major religions, and is the final link in the Judeo-Christian Islamic tradition of monotheism (belief in One God). More than one billion Muslims (Submitters in English) follow this religion around the world. About 6 million Muslims live in the USA. They came originally from different countries from around the world.
Ramadan is one of two major religious celebrations for the Muslims during the year. The first occurs during and right after the month of Ramadan, the Islamic month during which Muslims (Submitters) fast. Right after the month of Ramadan, Muslims traditionally celebrate for three more days for completing the fasting month.
The second major Islamic celebration takes place during the time of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). This week-long event occurs two months after Ramadan ends, during the 12th Islamic month. Muslims traditionally celebrate for four more days at the end of the pilgrimage season.
FASTING, AN OLD RELIGIOUS PRACTICE
Fasting is as old as the human race. All the major religions in the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, expect their followers to fast in some form or another. It is believed that fasting has always been the same in all the major religions in the world but changes happened as time passed by and by the appearance of new sects in different religions.
The most common motives for fasting are religious ones. In a religious fast there are three primary purposes: self-control over the body and its appetites; focusing the mind on God or prayer; making sacrifice to God for offenses committed. The Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have, from their inception, set aside certain times in the year for regular fasting observances.
Although the number of occasions on which fasting is practiced has tended to diminish over the centuries in all religions, most branches of Judaism still observe a Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) fast in the fall. Early Christianity developed a number of fasting periods: food was not eaten on Fridays in commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ.
Later a period of 40 fast days before Easter, called Lent, was set aside to allow Christians to meditate on the suffering of Jesus. In the 20th century the number of fast days has been dramatically reduced by the Roman Catholic church to two: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday the beginning and end of Lent. The church formerly required abstinence from eating meat on most Fridays and certain other days, but this did not include any restriction on the amount of food eaten. Protestant churches generally leave fasting to individual choice. In Islam abstention from food and drink is required of all able Muslims from dawn until dusk each day of the month of Ramadan.
THE LUNAR CALENDAR
Among the most important duties for a Muslim is fasting during the month of Ramadan, which is the ninth of the twelve months in the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims like Jews, use a lunar calendar for their religious observances. A lunar year is about 11 days shorter than a typical Gregorian year. As a result, dates of events in the Islamic lunar year "move forward" about 11 days every year. For example, in 1997 Ramadan began on December 30, and in 1998, it will begin on December 19.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RAMADAN
Ramadan is important for Muslims because it is believed to be the month during which the Holy Quran (the Muslims Holy book) was revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad (570-632 C.E.). It is also important because it is the month during which the Muslims were ordered to fast, achieving one of their spiritual satisfaction and practice.
Muslims consider the Quran to be the true words of God given to humanity through Muhammad, who is considered the last of the prophets. Muhammed was to call the people to monotheism and righteousness. This tradition of God chosen prophets or messengers is believed to include such figures as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day. This means not to eat, drink or smoke during the daylight hours. For married adults, it also includes refraining from marital relations during the hours of fasting (i.e. the daylight hours). The fasting person is expected to do his best to practice self control and discipline, not to get angry easy, refrain from using harsh language or insults and to tolerate, forgive and respect others. Young children, old and sick people are not expected to fast. Older people can feed a poor person for every day they cannot fast of Ramadan. Sick people can compensate by fasting other days when they feel well. Children are permitted to fast only when they are strong enough physically to tolerate fasting without difficulty
Fasting has a number of benefits:
- It allows one to build a sense of self-control and will-power, which can be beneficial throughout life in dealing with temptations and peer-pressure. Through fasting, Muslims learn to control their natural urges such as hunger, thirst and the desire to smoke and thus are able to better resist temptations for things which are not necessary, such as excessive food intake, drugs or other unhealthy or harmful substances and behaviors.
- It helps one to feel compassion for those who are less fortunate and underprivileged, since each day one will feel greater appreciation for what he/she has as a result of feeling hunger and thirst.
- It offers a time for Muslims to "purify" their bodies as well as their souls, by developing a greater sense of humility, spirituality and community. Ramadan is a very spiritual time for Muslims, and often they share their experience with their friends and family members. A greater sense of generosity and forgiveness is also characteristic of this time. Giving to the poor and needy and sharing one's fortune with them is expected during this month and encouraged for the rest of the year.
After the end of Ramadan, traditionally there will be a very festive and joyous holiday known as Eid , the Festival of Breaking the Fast. It is celebrated for three days. Children are often rewarded with gifts, money, and sweets. Lights and other decorations mark the happy occasion.
A Special Note to Teachers
As with other obligations in Islam (Submission), fasting becomes incumbent for those who can tolerate it without difficulty. Thus, Muslim students in your classes may be fasting during Ramadan. Teachers are kindly requested to bear this in mind when planning activities, parties, etc. which may involve food or beverages. The best course of action would be to ask your students about ways in which they can be accommodated. This is especially important in regards to Physical Education classes. P.E. teachers are requested to provide alternatives to rigorous physical exercise during this month for the fasting students.