Muslims around the world anticipate the arrival of the holiest month of the year. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims from all continents unite in a period of fasting and spiritual reflection.
Ramadan is a period of fasting, reflection, devotion, generosity and sacrifice observed by Muslims around the world. While major holidays of other faiths have largely become commercialized events, Ramadan retains its intense spiritual meaning.
The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst” and “sun-baked ground.” It is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who spend the month in fasting. As opposed to other holidays, when people often indulge, Ramadan is by nature a time of sacrifice.
During Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from looking at unlawful things. The hand must not touch or take anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In such a way, every part of the body observes the fast.
- Through fasting, a Muslim experiences hunger and thirst, and sympathizes with those in the world who have little to eat every day.
- Through increased devotion, Muslims feel closer to their Creator, and recognize that everything we have in this life is a blessing from Him.
- Through increased charity, Muslims develop feelings of generosity and good-will toward others. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said, “A man’s wealth is never diminished by charity.”
- Through self-control, a Muslim practices good manners, good speech, and good habits.
- Through changing routines, Muslims have a chance to establish healthier lifestyle habits particularly with regards to diet and smoking.
- Through family and community gatherings, Muslims strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, in their own communities and throughout the world.
Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims, but the feelings and lessons we experience should stay with us throughout the year. In the Qur’an, Muslims are commanded to fast so that they may “learn self-restraint” (Qur’an 2:183). This restraint and devotion is especially felt during Ramadan, but we all must strive to make the feelings and attitudes stay with us during our “normal” lives. That is the true goal and test of Ramadan.