April 2 marks the start of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and one of the holiest months of the year for Muslims. Ramadan officially begins when the month of Shaban, the eighth month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, ends. As the Islamic calendar is based around the lunar cycle, Ramadan rotates by approximately ten days each year. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, worship, as well as the most known action — fasting from sunrise to sunset.
During Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to take more time out to read the Qur’an (a religious text, much like the Bible and other religious scripture), give more money to charity (called Zakat), spend more time praying at the Mosque, and prepare meals for those in need. Through these actions, one can contemplate, change their behavior, and increase their good deeds.
I often get asked about Ramadan — why do Muslims stop eating during Ramadan? No water either? How do you do it? Why do you do it?
The reality is there’s more to Ramadan than refraining from eating and drinking — which ironically many find to be the easiest part. There’s a bigger goal to refine and refresh ourselves, both physically and mentally.
Fasting, from sunrise to sunset, gives me a snapshot of what it’s like to go hungry, without the ease of walking to the fridge. I can’t just turn the tap for a drink of water when I’m thirsty, and that reminds me of all those around the world who walk miles for access to their supply of water.
Inevitably, I develop sympathy for the less fortunate and learn to appreciate things I normally take for granted.
It teaches me to be grateful for the opportunities and resources that are available to me — and gives me an idea of what life would be like without them.
What I’m really looking forward to though, is the end of each day when the fast is broken with a meal called Iftar. Not just because we get to eat, but because I get to spend quality time with friends and family. During the month, there is a unique feeling of a global sense of belonging; experiencing something that millions of fellow Muslims experience as well.