I recall Ramadan as a student in elementary school. While I was always excited for its arrival, I was constantly met with questions of concern from teachers and peers alike. As years passed, the perennial question – and with it the questioner’s look of sympathy – became, “How do you do it?”
Presumably, their questions were in reference to the strict guidelines that many Muslims adhere to during the ninth month of each lunar year, namely the fast of the month of Ramadan.
While other religions require adherence to fast for different lengths of time and often from various foods, the fast of Ramadan differs on some basic points. The fasting that all able-bodied, non-traveling and “of age” Muslims are required to observe occurs for an entire month.
Ramadan begins when the crescent moon, which signifies the start of a new lunar month, is sighted. Every day of that lunar month, Muslims are required to fast from dawn until sunset, though they may eat and have intimate relations before and after these times.
At the most basic level, fasting in Ramadan entails abstention from food, water and sexual relations. On a deeper level, Muslims are encouraged to control their anger, their tongue – wearing, backbiting, lying – and all other body parts from engaging in disliked or disallowed behaviors and acts. God states in the Quran that fasting during Ramadan is prescribed “so that you may attain Taqwa, or God-consciousness.” Consequently, many Muslims devote a significant amount of time to reading the Quran, remembering God’s blessings, and improving themselves spiritually.
One of the many reasons I used to anticipate the coming of Ramadan was because of the air of festivity that seemed to follow the fasts as well as the fast-breaking feasts. Yet as an adult, there are many more reasons for which I look forward to Ramadan. Some of these reasons are historically and spiritually situated, though others are more socially oriented.
Perhaps the most significant historic and religious facet is the belief that Quranic revelations commenced in this month. Though the revelations continued for many years, they were also completed during Ramadan.
Socially, however, Ramadan is often a time that Muslims meet with one another on a daily or more consistent than normal basis. Many gather for evening prayers, but many more come to join one another in iftar, or the breaking of the fast. Often, elaborate meals are made on a nightly basis.
The Muslim Student Association of UR would like to invite the UR community to join our Ramadan celebration. On Saturday, Nov. 22, the MSA will host a Fast-a-thon, which encourages UR students, faculty, and staff, to fast with UR Muslims.
That evening in the Douglass Dining Center the MSA – with co-sponsorship by Association for Development of Interest in the Indian Subcontinent – will host an iftar featuring delicious Indian cuisine. In keeping with the giving spirit that often accompanies Ramadan, the MSA is also sponsoring a FoodLink food drive from Nov. 21 to Dec. 1. These events are open to the UR community, their friends and relatives.
Please join us in our celebration. Look for signs with more information on these events in the coming months.
Khan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.