The Holy Month Of Ramadan
Tuesday marked the first day of the Muslim holiday Ramadan, which consists of a month of fasting and prayer and begins with the sighting of the crescent moon (which is usually visible just after the new moon).
The video above, from 2011, combines a speech given by President Obama at the traditional Iftar dinner at the White House and an Arabic song about the holy month of Ramadan. Iftar is the name of the evening meal used to break the daily fast after sunset.
For Muslims around the world, this ninth month in the Islamic calendar is one of reflection, spiritual devotion, and becoming closer to Allah, or god. All adult Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sundown. Restricting food and drink is meant to bring Muslims away from the modern world filled with distractions so they might pay more devout attention to religious acts such as prayer and reading the Quran.
I talked to one of my Saudi Arabian students, Majed Aldakheel, about Ramadan in his country.
“Islam is based on five beliefs,” he told me. “The fasting of Ramadan is one of them.”
Ramadan in a Non-Muslim Country
There is a difference between Ramadan in Saudi Arabia and Ramadan in the USA, however. In most Muslim countries, the schedule of work, school, and life in general switches from daytime hours to nighttime hours: the cities sleep and rest during the day and come alive at night to break the fast.
In countries that are not Muslim, however, it is business as usual. Those who observe the Ramadan fast must do so while the world keeps turning in its quotidian habit. Muslims must therefore wake before dawn to eat and pray, go to school or work, and abstain from food and drink while non-Muslims indulge in their normal schedule of meals.
“It’s more difficult,” said Majed, “But I think it will be okay.” This will be Majed’s first Ramadan in the United States.
According to Majed, those who are sick, pregnant, ill or traveling don’t have to fast during Ramadan, though they should make up the fast later in the year before the next Ramadan. Also, young children are not expected to fast.
And at the end of the month? There is a huge celebration called Eid, “to thank Allah for the holy month of Ramadan,” said Majed. His eyes lit up when he described the night of family, friends and festivities in Saudi Arabia. I hope he and his fellow Muslims find a great spot to party when the fast ends this year!