The holy month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, starts on or about May 26 or 27, and is a continuous observance for 29 or 30 days.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Accurate dates cannot be given beforehand because the Islamic calendar is a Lunar one and the actual date of observance is determined by viewing the crescent moon every month.
There is a 10-day receding difference between the Lunar and Solar calendars each year. This gives Muslims an opportunity to observe Ramadan in different seasons and times of the year.
During this holy month of fasting, many historical events took place in Islam. In the Qur’an, Allah says, “Ramadan is the month in which Qur’an is revealed, a total guidance to mankind.” Fasting during Ramadan is the third of five Pillars that make up the Islamic way of life — Al-Deen — and is an institution that is binding on all healthy and able-bodied Muslim men and women.
The daily period of fasting is before dawn — approximately two hours before sunrise — until after sunset. According to the Holy Qur’an, during this daily period, one must not eat, drink, smoke, indulge in marital sexual relations or become ill tempered.
Ramadan serves as a periodic adjustment for proper human balance. This state ultimately allows individuals to gain self-mastery and total control over their heated desires, selfish appetites and other urges that dominate the life of every woman and man in this society.
Muslims deny the body those things which are normally lawful to strengthen the total self against all that is unlawful. Prophet Muhammad —peace and blessing be upon him — is reported to have said, “Whoever fasts but indulges in falsehood, let them know that their giving up of food and drink shall not benefit them with Allah.”
The Holy Qur’an instructs that “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed before you, that you might learn Taqwa — God consciousness.”
For Muslims, it is not how long one can fast, it is how well he or she can follow the guidance of Allah. One of the important benefits of the fast is to bring to mind the hardship of the less fortunate members of the society.
This makes humans more aware and more sympathetic to the needs of others. During Ramadan, Muslims sacrifice time from their usual pastimes in order to increase their spiritual growth. The extra time is to be spent praying, reading the Holy Qur’an and re-establishing proper management over every aspect of one’s life. Ramadan is a month of spending on the poor and on those in need. It is also highly recommended to entertain friends and Families for Iftar — fast breaking meal.
Specific categories of people are exempt from fasting such as the sick, those traveling a distance of 50 miles or more, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and women in their monthly menstruation cycle. The last group is not only exempted but is forbidden to fast. Full exemption is granted to those that are permanently incapacitated by reason of old age, an incurable disease or interrupted hard labor.
However, this category must substitute, each day that they can not fast, by feeding a hungry person for that day or by paying the cost of food sufficient to feed an average person a modest meal, if possible.
After Ramadan has ended, Muslims celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitr — The Festival of Fast Breaking — on June 25 or 26, depending upon the Lunar calendar.
The first day of Eid begins a three-day observance of thanksgiving and rejoicing for the fulfillment of the fasting obligation. The name of the festival is taken from the Arabic word “Fitrah,” which means to donate an amount of money necessary to provide an average meal to a needy person of the society.
Congregational prayers, on the first day of Eid, are held in small towns and large cities all over the world with a large feast and festival given and continues with related activities for the next two days.
The feast brings Families and friends together. Elderly members of the Family are visited by the younger ones for their respect and blessings from Allah. Friends and neighbors visit the sick, disabled and each other with gifts during the three day period.
Some accommodations may need to be made for Muslim soldiers so they can observe the holy month of Ramadan.
Muslim soldiers and Department of Defense civilian personnel will request release from duty and work each day at least 30 minutes before sunset in order to make the necessary preparation for observance of the Iftar and the after sunset prayer.
All Muslim personnel will request leave or pass to celebrate the Festival of Fast Breaking beginning on June 25 or 26. Additionally, Muslim Soldiers will request exemption from participation in daily rigorous physical training, long road marches and field training exercises.
Additional information and literature on Ramadan and Islam can be obtained at 964-0817.