The ninth month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar is Ramadan, also pronounced as Ramzaan or Ramzan, which marks a month of fasting by Muslims from fajir or dawn i.e. before the sunrise to maghrib or dusk i.e. after the sunset. While the West culturally follows the Gregorian calendar, the Islamic calendar is lunar which means it is based on the sighting of the crescent moon.
The holy month of Ramadan occurs approximately 10-11 days earlier every year depending on when the moon is sighted since lunar months are shorter than solar months and so it varies from country to country by about a day. The whole month is spent by Muslims in spiritual reflection, increased devotion and worship but there are certain obligatory rules and traditions guiding the roza or fasts during these 29 or 30 days on Ramadan.
Tradition of fasting by Muslims:
The annual observance of keeping fasts throughout Ramadan is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam with fasting being the fourth pillar. A fast is called a ‘roza’ which is governed by the idea of practicing self-restraint.
A typical day of a rozedaar or a Muslim observing a roza should start with sehri or suhoor which consists of a lavish meal before dawn. The rising of the sun marks the beginning of the fast which is then broken with an iftari or feast after the sunset and the evening prayer.
Breaking a fast with iftari delicacies can put a smile on the hungriest of people.
Rules of fasting for Muslims:
1. Those chronically ill, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, old and sick with health restrictions are exempted from observing a fast during Ramadan. However, they should compensate for it by performing Fidiya which is done by feeding a poor person on every day of Ramadan or every day of missing one’s fast.
2. A woman during her menstrual cycle or post-childbirth bleeding is not obliged to observe fast but the missed fasts need to be compensated later.
3. Apart from offering the daily five daily prayers at the time of Fajr (dawn), Dhuhr (noon), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (evening) and Isha (night), the rozedaars should not eat or drink anything intentionally in a state of fast and abstain from smoking or else the fast will become invalid.
4. Consumption of any food item due to absent-mindedness or by mistake will not have any negative effect on one’s fast nor make it invalid hence, a person can immediately repent and continue with their fast after realising they have consumed something due to forgetfulness.
5. Refraining from false speech, insulting, cursing, lying and fighting is a must for Muslims all though their lives but observed more strictly during Ramadan so as to not negate the reward of fasting.
6. Giving alms to the needy is called Zakat which is an obligatory charity in Islam. This is another compulsion during the holy month of Ramadan and the amount to be given out in Zakat is a fixed percentage of one’s savings that is required to be given to the poor which is different from Sadaqah or voluntary charity that is the amount Muslims donate above and beyond what is required from the obligation of Zakat.
7. A very important rule for Muslims observing the Ramadan fast is that physical intimacy like indulging in sex is not allowed during the sacred month as rozedaars are required to channel their spirituality while seeking forgiveness through letting go of the worldly pleasures during these 29 or 30 days when they observe fast with their family and friends.
Just like the past Covid-19 year, the year 2021 too is enveloped by the pandemic gloom and lockdown woes to curb the spread of coronavirus as infection cases spike across the world but to disperse these dark times, Muslims across the world are eagerly waiting to sight the crescent moon to mark the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. In India this year, Ramadan’s crescent moon is expected to be sighted on April 12 which means that if the moon is visible then the first roza will be observed on April 13 otherwise, the first fast will begin from April 14.