Ramadan: A Month of Resilience and Reflection

Ramadan Mubarak 2018 – May 16th to June 14th

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims frequent the Islamic Center of Virginia.

Photo by: Sharif Alkatib

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims frequent the Islamic Center of Virginia.

Today, sophomore Haifa Al-Ashari wakes up two hours before sunrise. She sits down with her family at the kitchen table and eats a large meal with traditional foods, such as sambusas (a stuffed triangular Middle Eastern pastry), dolma (stuffed vegetables), fūl (cooked fava beans), and muhallebi (Middle Eastern styled milk pudding). Just as she finishes her food, an alarm on her phone goes off: it is time for Fajr, the first daily prayer out of five. This means that her fasting has started. Al-Ashari is among one of the millions of Muslims across the world who is participating in Ramadan this year.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims believe that in this month, the first chapters of the holy Quran were revealed to the prophet Muhammad. The Islamic calendar is lunar; Ramadan officially begins when the crescent moon is seen in the sky. This year, Ramadan lasts from May 16th to June 14th. Children and those who are elderly, ill, travelling, or diabetic are not required to fast. Able Muslims fast from Fajr around sunrise to Maghrib (the final prayer of the day), around sunset. Before Fajr, they eat a large meal called suhur to prepare themselves for the entire day. They refrain from any food and water until Maghrib, during which they break their fast with a large meal called iftar. After iftar, some choose to attend their mosques to pray taraweeh, a specific prayer completed only in Ramadan.

After Ramadan comes Eid Al-Fitr, a holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan. Eid Al-Fitr falls on June 15th this year, which is the last day of school. On this day, families dress in fine clothes and gather at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The imam (the Muslim equivalent of a pastor) relays a religious lecture, or khutba about the importance of Ramadan and Eid. Then, he leads hundreds of Muslims in prayer. Soon after, families disperse to continue with their own Eid festivities- which can range from attending local celebrations at mosques or hosting their own celebration with their friends.

However, Ramadan is more than just a month of fasting. During this time, Muslims are encouraged to refrain from negative behaviors, such as: smoking, drinking, lying, and being angry or jealous. Many choose this time to make zakat (donations to charity), do more good deeds, and pray more. “To me, fasting helps me feel closer to God,” said Al-Ashari. “My favorite part about Ramadan is going to the mosque and praying with everyone around me.”

Throughout Ramadan, the phrases Ramadan Mubarak and Ramadan Kareem are constantly spoken. Ramadan Mubarak means to have a “blessed Ramadan,” and Ramadan Kareem means to have a “generous Ramadan”. These are Arabic phrases used to greet Muslims who are fasting and wish them a blessed and generous fast. They are usually exchanged by Muslims who are fasting, although non-Muslims are more than welcome to greet Muslims in this way.

Ramadan is a time for reflection and self discipline; to those who are fasting, Ramadan Mubarak.