On Wednesday 17th June approximately 1.5 billion people across the world came together to celebrate a joyous occasion. This celebration was the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
For the next 30 days, followers of Islam will fast from dawn to sunset, refraining from eating, drinking, smoking and negative behaviours such as cursing or gossiping. But why do Muslims do this and what is the significance of Fasting?
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, or the Hijri calendar, based on the lunar cycle. Muslims around the world believe Ramadan is the holiest month in the year as this was when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
When is Ramadan?
The exact dates of Ramadan differ from year to year as they are calculated in line with the lunar calendar. Dependant on the sighting of the crescent moon, or hilal, the first fasting day this year began at dawn on Thursday 18th June. This will continue through to Friday 17th July.
As Ramadan coincides with the start of summer in 2015, followers around the world could be fasting for up to 15 hours per day.
Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?
Muslims fast during Ramadan to commemorate the first revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad. Fasting during Ramadan, or sawm in
Arabic, is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the testimony of faith, daily prayer, supporting the less fortunate known as zakat, and performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
The fast is intended to bring followers closer to God and remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Fasting is an exercise in self-restraint and is seen as a way to spiritually detoxify and recharge, by controlling impulses like morning coffee, smoking and indulgent snacking. Ramadan is a time to detach from materialistic and superficial urges, and focus on one’s prayers.
Preparing for and breaking fast
To prepare for the fast, Muslims eat a high calorific foods meal pre-dawn known as suhoor to provide them with enough energy to get them through the day. In Malaysia, the fast is typically broken after sunset with delicious food either prepared at home or purchased from the various Ramadan open-air bazaars set up around town. Many restaurants and hotels also offer break fast buffets.
At the end of the Ramadan fasting period, Malaysians celebrate in a two-day Hari Raya Puasa holiday full of prayers, ‘balik kampung’ to visit family and friends, and open houses to invite friends to sample delicious food and kuih-muih.
From everyone at EZTakaful, Selamat Berpuasa!
This is part of our 6-part series of posts specially prepared for the Ramadan period with more posts to follow in the coming weeks. Come back again to find out about other interesting topics such as our top 5 favourite Ramadan Bazaars in Kuala Lumpur and tips to handle the heat and thirst during Ramadan.