What Is Ramadan?

""Ramadaan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar, and the month during which the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) received the first revelation from God, the first verses of the Holy Qura’n.  The Quran says:


The month of Ramadaan [is that] in which Qura’n was revealed, a guidance for the people and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false.  So whoever, of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it; but he that is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead the same] number of other days.  God wills that you shall have ease, and does not will you to suffer hardship, and that you complete the number of days and that you extol God for Him having guided you aright and that you render your thanks [unto Him] Allah. (2:185).


Muslims view Ramadaan as a month of joy, goodwill and community spirit, rather than a month of hardship.  There are many benefits from fasting: personal and communal, physical and spiritual.


God-consciousness


This is the foremost of the benefits of Fasting and the reason for it’s prescription:
"O you  who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may have God-consciousness (Taqwaa)." (2:183).


With God-consciousness, one is able to push oneself to do those actions which are pleasing to God and at the same time avoid those things which He has prohibited.  The fasting Muslim is aware that God knows and sees all things, and is conscious of His presence throughout the day.  For his obedience, he is promised forgiveness and a great reward in the hereafter.  The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever fasts in the month of Ramadaan with full consciousness of faith and a sense of accountability will have all previous sins forgiven".


Will-power


During Ramadaan, from dawn until sunset, every healthy adult Muslim totally abstains from food, drinks, and conjugal relations. After sunset and until dawn, no such restrictions apply. Pregnant, breast-feeding and menstruating women, as well as those who are traveling or sick should not fast, but should make up the days when they have the ability to do so.  Pre-pubescent children are not required to fast, although many children insist on fasting along with their parents and siblings.  The physical effects of fasting include lowered blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. But more importantly fasting develops a level of patience and self-discipline that cannot be achieved easily in any other way.  After fasting an entire month, one develops confidence in oneself to meet any challenge with resolve, patience and faith in God.


Empathy


Ramadaan is unique in that it provides an opportunity for every Muslim, regardless of his economic status, to have first-hand experience of how it feels to be hungry and thirsty for hours on end.  One can only become more empathetic and compassionate to the poor and disadvantaged, as well as more thankful for the blessings one enjoys every day.  Muslims are encouraged to be more charitable during Ramadaan and to help anyone in need.  Not only are sharing food and spending in charity encouraged, but everything from a kind word to a smile is considered a charitable act.


In the evenings in Ramadaan, social visits are exchanged to promote love and brotherhood.  Many people invite relatives and neighbors over to break the fast together, called ?Iftaar’.  Thus, the month of Ramadaan is also a very social occasion.  The bleak abstinence of the day contrasts with the joyous festivities of the night.


Exerting oneself in Worship


While the most obvious feature of Ramadaan is the fast, there are several extraordinary forms of worship that are practiced, aiding the Muslim in gaining closeness to the Creator.  In addition to the five daily prayers, the Muslim often increases the number of voluntary prayers and supplications during Ramadaan, particularly with evening taraweeh prayers, about two hours after sunset, and with prayers throughout the night.  The last ten days of Ramadaan are especially important as Muslims anticipate Lailat-al-Qadr, or the "Night of Destiny".  This night is equal to a thousand months of worship in merit.  Since they are not sure on which night it falls, Muslims intensify worship for all ten nights.  Many Muslims try to recite the whole Qur’aan at least once in Ramadaan.  It is a time for total dedication to one’s faith, providing a focus for the coming year.  It is truly a month of worship and God-consciousness.


Eid, or the Feast


Eid-al Fitr or "Celebration of the Feast", follows the last day of Ramadaan.  It is a special time of congratulations, socialization and charity.  The day begins with congregational prayers after sunrise and follows with exchanging visits, giving gifts, sharing meals and social outings. However, all agree that the real celebration is not when the fast is complete, but begins on the fist day and last throughout the month.


[Compiled with the help of informative sources]

Author: Hasan A. Yusuf- Kuwait