“No thank you, I’m Fasting”
Ramadhan A Primer on the Month of Fasting from Your Muslim American Neighbors
INSIDE: • Why do Muslims Fast? • Ramadhan – the Month of the Qur’an • Frequently Asked Questions
Muslims around the world are abstaining from food and drink for an entire month. This special month in the 12-month Islamic calendar is called Ramadhan. During this month, your Muslim neighbors, friends, and co-workers are trying to focus on their relationship with their Creator. On top of their work or school schedule, Muslim Americans are spending their days fasting and their evenings at their houses of worship praying and doing charitable work. This special newsletter will help you understand what Ramadhan is all about.
Frequently Asked Questions:
with dates. Although not required, many Muslims attend the masjid3 at night to engage in special night prayers called “taraweeh”.
Q: What is Ramadhan?
A: Ramadhan is the name of the ninth Islamic lunar month. Muslims believe Ramadhan is the month in which Allah1 revealed the holy scriptures to mankind.
Q: How can non-Muslim co-workers and friends help someone who is fasting?
Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and intimate relations with their spouse during the daylight hours of the blessed month. It is a time for Muslims to contemplate on their belief and increase their faith by actively increasing in worship, prayer, reading and study of the Qur’an, and acts of charity. It is an opportunity for spiritual as well as physical puriﬁcation.
Q: Do all Muslims need to fast?
Q: Do Muslims not eat and drink for a whole month?
Q: What do Muslims believe they gain from fasting?
A: No. Muslims are ordered to abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from the break of dawn until sunset throughout the whole month. So, during the evening hours Muslims may eat and drink as they please. Many Muslims take this opportunity to invite friends and family over to share in the spirit of Ramadhan.
Q: What do Muslims do during Ramadhan? A: Muslims usually wake before dawn to take a small meal called “suhoor”. They abstain from eating, drinking and sensual pleasures during the daylight hours of the blessed month. Muslims exert more effort in worship, charity, and generally practicing higher morals during Ramadhan. At sunset, Muslims break their fast, usually with a meal with family and friends or at their local Islamic center. Following the practice of the Prophet Muhammad2, Muslims usually break their fast
days are long and the fast is more difﬁcult. In this way, the difﬁculty of the fast is evenly distributed between Muslims living in the northern and southern hemispheres. For Muslim Americans, the fasts will get longer over the next several years as Ramadhan falls in the long days of summer.
A: Fasting is only obligated on Muslims who have reached puberty, are sane and are healthy. Children are exempt, but are encouraged to fast some days too, or a portion of a day, to train them for when they are obliged to fast. The sick are exempted from fasting by order of Allah in the Qur’an.
A: Some of the main beneﬁts of Ramadhan are a sense of self-puriﬁcation and reﬂection and a renewed focus on spirituality. Also, by feeling the pangs of hunger, Muslims develop an increased compassion for those in need of the necessities of life. Muslims also appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by family and friends throughout the month. Perhaps the greatest practical beneﬁt is the yearly lesson in self-restraint and discipline that ﬁnds its way into other aspects of a Muslim’s life after Ramadhan.
Q: Why does Ramadhan begin on a different day each year? A: Because Ramadhan is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days earlier each year. Throughout a Muslim’s lifetime, Ramadhan will fall both during winter months, when the days are short, and summer months, when the
Footnotes: 1The name of God in Arabic, 2Muslims say ‘peace be upon him’ when mentioning the prophets. 3 House of worship, lit; “place of prostration”
A: Employers, co-workers and teachers can help by understanding the signiﬁcance of Ramadhan and by showing a willingness to make minor allowances for its physical demands. Special consideration can be given to such things as requests for vacation time, and the need for ﬂexible early morning or evening work schedules. It is also very important that Muslim workers and students be given time to attend Eid prayers at the end of Ramadhan. Hospital workers should be aware that injections and oral medications might break the fast. Patients should be given the opportunity to decide whether or not their condition exempts them from fasting.
Q: Do people normally lose weight during Ramadhan?
A: Some people do lose weight, but others may not. It is recommended that meals eaten during Ramadhan be light, and the Prophet Muhammad emphasized eating with moderation in general. However, most people can’t resist sampling special sweets and foods associated with Ramadhan !
Ramadhan–the Month of the Qur’an Although the month-long fast is usually the main aspect of Ramadhan covered by mass media, for Muslims around the world Ramadhan is known as the month of the Qur’an. The Qur’an describes Ramadhan as the “month in which the Qur’an was revealed”. Muslims endeavor to recite the entire book during Ramadhan, and worshipers listen to the melodious recitation of the Qur’an during the “taraweeh” prayers offered every night at the masjid. Here are some interesting facts about what Muslims believe about the Qur’an that might surprise you!
A Final Revelation:
Muslims believe the Qur’an is the literal word of Allah (the name for God in Arabic), revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the Arabic language by the Angel Gabriel over a 23 year span. Muslims believe that Allah also revealed books to the Prophet Moses (the Torah), Prophet Jesus (the Gospel), Prophet David (the Psalms), and other prophets. However, Muslims believe those scriptures were changed over time. To Muslims, the Qur’an supersedes the previous revelations and is Allah’s ﬁnal revelation to mankind.
The Most Read and Memorized Book in the World:
The word “Qur’an” is an Arabic word meaning “recital”. Muslims recite passages from the Qur’an in their ﬁve daily prayers from memory. Also, tens of millions of Muslims young and old, male and female have committed the entire Qur’an to memory even though most of them are not Arabic speaking! People who memorize the entire Qur’an are given special respect in the Muslim community, even if they are children. Interestingly, the ﬁrst word revealed in the Qur’an was “Read”!
The Size of the Qur’an:
The Qur’an is divided into 114 chapters of varying length. The longest chapter has 286 verses while the shortest chapter has 3.The total number of verses is 6,240. Reading straight through, the Qur’an can be ﬁnished in about 10 hours. You can listen to the Qur’an online at sites like http://tanzil.info [english and arabic]
What the Qur’an Talks About:
The Qur’an is addressed to all of mankind. Using stories, parables, commands, and reasoning, the Qur’an teaches mankind about the Creator and man’s relationship to Him. It also instructs people as to their duties to their Creator, to their family and humanity in general, to the society and environment, and to their own selves. It lays down general codes of conduct for individuals and societies, and also sets down speciﬁc laws relating to such things as marriage and inheritance.
Many Prophets Mentioned in the Qur’an:
The Qur’an discusses the Prophetic mission at many places and references previous Prophets and their stories. In all, 26 Prophets are mentioned by name. Prophet Moses is the most mentioned prophet – 135 times. Prophet Abraham is mentioned 67 times, while Prophet Muhammad is mentioned 5 times. Other prophets mentioned include Prophets Adam, Noah, Jesus, Aaron, David, Solomon, Jacob, and Joseph. Continued next page >>
Only One Version of the Qur’an:
The Qur’an was memorized by the Prophet Muhammad and taught to his followers as it was revealed. Memorization was a deﬁning characteristic of the Arab society, and Prophet Muhammad’s followers memorized the verses and also recorded them in writing. As Islam spread across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, non-Arabic speaking people were entering the fold of Islam. To prevent any changes or mistakes in copies of the Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad’s followers sent 4 ofﬁcial copies to outlying parts of the Muslim lands. Two of these ofﬁcial copies are found in museums in Istanbul, Turkey and in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. If you compare those original Qur’ans with any Qur’an in America, they are exactly the same --- word for word, letter for letter! Muslims believe this is the fulﬁllment of Allah’s promise to protect and preserve the Qur’an.
Did you know? The ﬁrst verses revealed in the Qur’an was: “Read! In the name of your Lord Who created, created man from a clinging substance. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous – who taught by the pen – taught man that which he knew not” [96:1-5] The most populous Muslim country is Indonesia, with about 200 million Muslims. Arabs account for less than 15% of the total Muslim population, estimated at 1.2 billion people. Only Christianity has more followers. The Ka’ba – the black cube shaped building seen in many photographs of the Holy city of Makkah – marks the spot where Muslims believe Prophet Abraham built the ﬁrst house of worship. Muslims do not worship the Ka’ba, it simply marks the direction they face when they worship. Wherever Muslims live, they face the direction of the Ka’ba when they pray. The inside of the Ka’ba is empty. The word “Muslim” literally means “one who submits”. The word “Islam” is derived from the arabic word for “peace”. A Muslim submits to God and attains peace.
To learn more about your Muslim neighbors, visit www.learnaboutislam.org. To order a free English translation of the Qur’an call 301-982-9463 or email Quran@learnaobutislam.org