This post is part of our ongoing series featuring the works of Professor LeBoeuf 's students in her Introduction to Religions of Asia course at Whittier College!
I chose to do my topic on how the Islamic Community practices Ramadan. Ramadan happens on the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, which means each month starts with a new moon. The reason why I chose to do this topic was because I find it very similar to the sacrament of Lent, being a Catholic Christian this is what I participate in through the 40 days leading up to Easter. Unlike Lent where we get to choose on what to give up on, Ramadan has specific things they all have to give up on. They must give up eating, drinking, smoking, doing negative acts, and having sexual intercourse if married. To get through the day without eating or drinking, Muslim families would rise up at 5am to eat a breakfast like meal called the Suhur and have an Iftar at sunset to break the fast for that day.
The foods that Muslims eat during Suhur are fruits, vegetables, rice, skinned chicken, and low-fat dairy products to keep their immune system and muscles strong during the hours of fasting. During Iftar Muslims would invite people over their own homes or go to someone else’s house to break the fast together because Ramadan is seen as a social event as well. When breaking the fast, most of the time Muslims would eat dates and water, but other Muslim populated countries have their own variety of different dishes and desserts to break the fast with. They would either eat their own dishes or eat the dates first and then have a full-on meal with other kinds of food to satisfy their empty stomachs from fasting all day.
The date of Ramadan changes every year because it is based from a lunar calendar. The ninth month is significant
because it is believed that this was the month that Allah gave the first chapters of the Qur’an to Muhammad in 610 CE. The exact day is said to be the 27th day of the month, which is called Laylat al-Qadr or the “Night of Power”. On this night mosques will be open all night so that Muslims can be able to hold vigil prayers, recite the Qur’an, and have time for contemplation. The ones that are obligated to participate in Ramadan are Muslims that have reached the age of puberty. Although kids that have not reached the age of puberty are not required to participate in Ramadan, some Muslim families will start training their children at the age of seven to fast for only half of the day or on the weekends. Ones that exempt from fasting during Ramadan are women who are pregnant, nursing, or menstruating. Also children that have not reached the age of puberty, the sick, or the aged people that are too weak or ill to fast. If they missed out on fasting, they must make up for it when they are able to do so or instead they could give back to their community by feeding the homeless or helping out the less fortunate in another way.
Ramadan is not just a month of fasting, but it is also a time to grow closer to God. “The whole point of the fast is to demonstrate submission to God and keep the mind focused on the spiritual plane” (Saeed 2012). Fasting opens the eyes of the Muslims to realize the hardships of the less fortunate people, which is why a lot of mosques would hold charities during the month of Ramadan to give back to the homeless. In the Qur’an it reads “And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah: for Allah sees Well all that ye do”. The reason for Ramadan is to also help Muslims learn to have self control during their daily lives so that when it come to judgment day, they will be reunited with Allah.
The last day of Ramadan it is called the Eid Al Fitr, on this day it is held in large halls or at parks so that many people can gather together in their best clothes to celebrate the end of fasting. They have a morning prayer that is served at the start of the day, and is a time to reflect on the spiritual lessons that they have learned throughout the month of Ramadan. On this day it is similar to Christmas for the kids because they will receive presents from their family members, such as new clothes, money, or just other gifts in general.
About Samantha (Sam)
Sam is a kinesiology major at Whittier College, planning on becoming either an occupational or physical therapist. She ran Cross Country all 4 years of high school and also ran for the Whittier College cross country team her first semester of college. She enjoys writing, painting, drawing, and photography… essentially anything that has to do with art! She would also have to say that her favorite color at the moment would have to be mustard yellow.
Saeed, Saeed. Discovering the true meaning of Ramadan. The National, 19 July. 2012
https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/discovering-the-true-meaning-of-ramadan-1.363245. Accessed 11 April 2018.
Quran: Surah #2, Ayah #10 (002.110)