14 Ways Ramadan Is Celebrated
The holy month is about much more than just fasting.
Ramadan, the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar, is observed annually by a majority of the world's 1.8 billion Muslims. And not only is the holy month marked by strict fasting from sunrise to sunset, it's also a time for prayer, reflection, introspection, and charitable acts. Though the month of Ramadan is marked by full days of fasting—yes, that includes water—it's a joyous occasion for celebrating and re-connecting with God for those who adhere to the Islamic faith. Curious how exactly Muslims spend the month of Ramadan? Keep reading to discover some of the ways Ramadan is celebrated.
You don't eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset.
For the month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking anything from dawn until sunset. This fast is all about spiritual and physical discipline and cleansing the mind and body. The practice is mandatory for all adult Muslims save for those who are traveling, sick, pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating, or have a health condition like diabetes that would prevent them from being able to fast safely. In other words, if fasting will adversely affect your health or cause undue suffering, then you are exempt from it until your condition improves.
You abstain from gossiping, cursing, complaining, and arguing.
Ramadan is not just about fasting from food and water; it is also about fasting from bad deeds. Instead of gossiping about others, it's about focusing on yourself; instead of cursing, it's about exercising restraint; instead of complaining, it's about exercising patience; and instead of arguing, it's about communicating more calmly and productively. The key is to be more intentional and deliberate with each thought, conversation, and action.
You also abstain from self-indulgences.
While pre-marital sex is forbidden in Islam always, even married couples are not allowed to have sex from sunrise to sunset during the holy month. The idea is that practicing self-control and restraint in this regard enables you to focus on yourself and your spiritual growth. Other things that are banned from sunrise to sunset include smoking and chewing gum.
You wake up extra early to eat.
Suhoor or sehri (among other names) is the morning meal Muslims eat before beginning their fast at dawn. The types of food people have for suhoor vary depending on their culture and their family—but since this is the only meal a person will have until sunset, complex carbs and something high in protein are typically included in order to prolong feelings of fullness. And of course, there is water—lots and lots of water.
You break fast with dates.
Iftaar is the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily fast. While you can break your fast with any food or drink item, Muslims around the world typically break it with a date to keep with tradition advised by the Prophet Muhammad. After eating a date and drinking some water, Muslims will dive into the actual evening meal, which can include everything from samosas to chicken stew.
You read the Qu'ran.
Ramadan is a time during which Muslims aim to re-connect with the Qu'ran, the holy book central to the Islamic faith. Since the Qu'ran has 30 chapters, many people will try to read one chapter per day during Ramadan, while others will read the entire book multiple times over the course of the month. The idea is not just to recite the Qu'ran but also to study it, make meaning of it, and implement some of its teachings into one's own life.
You perform additional nightly prayers.
Every night during Ramadan, Sunni Muslims add additional prayers called tarawih into their routine. There are 29 or 30 days of Ramadan and 30 chapters of the Qu'ran, so at a Sunni mosque, the imam, or prayer leader, will read approximately one chapter per night until the entire book has been covered. Tarawih happen some time after salat al-isha, the night prayer, and before dawn.
Ramadan is all about reflection. Throughout the month, you are meant to contemplate your relationship with God and ponder what kind of person you want to be. The holy month is also about practicing gratitude. By refraining from eating and drinking for a prolonged period of time, the goal is to put yourself in the shoes of those less fortunate who may feel those pangs of hunger on a daily basis, even when it's not Ramadan. By experiencing this firsthand, you might just find yourself more compassionate, more empathetic, and even more giving.
Ramadan is a time of learning, engaging, and seeking knowledge. As such, local mosques and community leaders host classes and seminars all month long. If you can't attend those, then fear not: Prominent religious leaders release videos all throughout the month on both YouTube and Facebook that are accessible to everyone!
You perform charitable acts.
In Islam, charity is a much broader concept with a spiritual component. Therefore, not only is donating money or giving away tangible goods considered charitable, but so is every good deed done selflessly for someone else. The idea is that you do not have to possess material items in order to be a charitable person.
You prepare for Eid al-Fitr.
Eid al-fitr, or the Festival of Breaking the Fast, is the religious celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. Traditionally, Eid—as it's also known—is a three-day celebration spent with family and friends, often commemorated with large feasts and gifts. As the end of Ramadan approaches, people begin planning Eid parties and even special Eid outfits.
For Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, decorations can range from lanterns and lights to the Instagram-famous crescent moon Ramadan trees. You can even buy ornaments with Islamic sayings to adorn these trees, just like a Christmas fir!
You enjoy unique food and beverages.
Depending on the culture and specific household, different food and drink items might only appear during the holy month. For many Muslim families, for example, dates are only eaten during the month of Ramadan. And in South Asia and the Middle East, fruit salad and Vimto (a sweet purple soft drink from the U.K.) respectively are daily iftaar staples that are seldom seen in stores once Ramadan has ended.
You spend time with family and friends.
With endless iftaar gatherings, Ramadan is an extremely social time for many Muslims. Since Ramadan is also a time for community building and forging friends, Muslims will often eat with people they aren't well acquainted with at their local mosques during this breaking of the fast. Some people even have early a.m. suhoor parties, during which they feast on copious amounts of food with friends before the sun rises. And to discover more about how things are celebrated in other cultures, check out these 23 Heartwarming Photos From Pride Celebrations Around the World.
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