On March 22, 2023, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, began and will last until April 21. Ramadan is one of the most important holidays for the followers of Islam. It lasts from twenty-nine to thirty days, depending on the position of the moon.
The Holy Qur’an says: “O, you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those who came before you, so that you shun evil.” [Quran: Surah 2 – Al-Baqara (The Cow), verse 183]. The Prophet Muhammad (AS) said: “When the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of heaven are open, the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained”.
Each year, more than 1.6 billion Muslims around the world begin fasting during Ramadan. Fasting is obligatory for all healthy adult Muslims. From sunrise to sunset, they must refrain from eating, drinking (even water), smoking, swearing and even sexual intercourse.
Because the Islamic calendar follows a strict lunar cycle, the month of Ramadan falls approximately eleven days earlier each year. According to the statements of Prophet Muhammad (AS), the month of Ramadan begins only after seeing and confirming the new moon.
Ramadan is one of the twelve months of the Muslim calendar, which was also part of the calendar of the ancient, pre-Muslim Arabs. The name of the holiday comes from the Arabic word “ar-ramad”, which means “heat”.
The purpose of fasting in Ramadan is for the believing Muslim to achieve “taqla” — Allah consciousness and to teach Muslims humility, patience and increase spirituality. Holy Ramadan is a time of special reflection and in-depth prayer.
Muslims practice spiritual discipline, express gratitude for God’s guidance, and ask forgiveness for their sins. The Prophet Muhammad (AS) said: “Whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, all his previous sins will be forgiven”.
Ramadan is the most holy month of the year for Muslims because in Ramadan the angel Gabriel (Jibril) appeared to Prophet Muhammad (AS) and by the will of Allah Almighty gave him the Holy Qur’an and its revelations.
In Ramadan, in addition to fasting, devout Muslims increase their piety through additional prayers called tarawehh, i.e. reading and reciting the Holy Qur’an, and giving alms to poorer people. Each night during Ramadan, one equal portion of the Holy Qur’an — called Juz — is read so that the entire Quran is recited by the end of the month. It is not mandatory but is strongly recommended for all Muslims.
The spiritual benefits of practising Islam multiply greatly during Ramadan and especially during Laylat al-Qadr (called “Night of Destiny”). Laylat Al-Qadr is most often celebrated on the 27th night of Ramadan. It was then that Prophet Muhammad received the revelation of the Holy Qur’an from Allah. The Qur’an says that this night is better than a thousand months, and prayers offered during Laylat Al-Qadr provide great spiritual reward.
Ramadan is a time when religious fervour increases. Those Muslims who do not attend prayers on a daily basis will go to the mosque and pray. Those who do not regularly observe prayer five times a day will scrupulously observe fasting. Many Muslims do this to make up for non-observance of religious obligations.
During Ramadan, Muslims get up before dawn to eat a breakfast called Sahur. They then say the Fajr morning prayer, and say four more prayers until the evening. After sunset, some Muslims eat a small amount of dates and wash them down with water, and then join the Maghrib prayer in the evening. According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (AS) broke his fast every day by eating three dates before evening prayer.
Late in the evening there is a meal called Iftar. It is not uncommon for this to be a small feast where Muslim families and friends gather in a mosque or at home to eat a rather hearty meal.
In most Muslim countries, people often sleep during the day during Ramadan. Labour productivity then decreases, and food consumption increases due to heavy, late-evening or late-night dinners.
In Poland, Muslims are a minority and try to adapt to reality. There are Muslims who openly say that they fast and their performance at work will be weaker. Others take leave to practice fasting at home for at least a week or two. Still, others combine fasting with normal work, treating it as a great spiritual challenge.
After the end of Ramadan comes the joyful celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which lasts for three days. It begins with a common prayer at dawn. During Eid Al-Fitr, Muslims organize cheerful, boisterous lunches and dinners, meet with family and friends, make wishes and give each other gifts.
Holy Fasting Ramadan has several dimensions: a behavioural dimension, a religious dimension, a social dimension and a spiritual dimension. Fasting in Ramadan is learning self-control. The Muslim frees himself from sensual desires and controls his emotions and actions. The social significance of fasting also lies in the fact that the fasting person experiences hunger, thanks to which he develops his empathy towards poorer people and does everything to help those in need.
Ramadan is the month of giving. People are more generous, kind, and ready to help others. Spiritually, Ramadan is an act of obedience to Allah Almighty. It gives the ability to control physical tendencies and strengthens the mind and heart. Fasting in Ramadan convinces a Muslim that he is only a servant of Allah the Mighty. It gives the opportunity to understand all the attributes and names of Allah – the Lord of the Worlds. A Muslim realizes that he is only an inhabitant of the Earth, which, like the Universe, was created by Allah, the Lord of All Creation.
Fasting in Ramadan is the way to piety and freedom from evil, reflection on oneself. A Muslim then especially appreciates the graces of Allah the Merciful and knows that the purpose of life is to love God and serve other people.
Explanation of terms:
Cow — The second surah of the Quran is called Al-Baqarah (Al-Bakara) which translates from Arabic to “The Heifer” or “The Cow”.
(AS) — This phrase means “Peace was with him”. Muslims, when referring to the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Ali and other Shia imams, are required to add the phrase (AS) as a sign of respect.