YOUth Should Know: The significance of Ramadan
Here are five things you should know about the holiest month of the year in the Islamic faith.
Muslims around the world will soon observe the holiest month of the year in the Islamic faith — Ramadan.
The period will consist of fasting, prayer and spiritual reflection. It is also considered one of the five pillars of Islam, which are the fundamental religious duties of Muslims.
This year, Ramadan is predicted to begin on Mar 23 and will end on Apr 22. Here are five things you should know about the sacred month of worship that is observed by Muslims worldwide:
1. Fasting takes place during the sacred month of Ramadan
Ramadan is considered a sacred month that honours the time Allah, via the angel Gabriel, revealed the first verses of the Quran to a merchant named Muhammad. As such, Muslims fast during the month to commemorate the revelation of the Quran.
It is also done as an act of worship to get closer to Allah and to remember the blessings they have received in their lives. Fasting involves abstaining from food, drink, and other physical indulgences or acts, such as smoking or having intimate relations from dawn until sunset.
The Hijri calendar, commonly known as the Islamic calendar, is lunar. Hence, the beginning of Ramadan is determined by a moon sighting committee in Saudi Arabia.
The month concludes with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr (Hari Raya), a festive holiday that marks the end of the fasting period.
2. There are two daily meals Muslims have during Ramadan
Sehri and iftar are two important meals that Muslims have during the month of Ramadan.
Sehri is the pre-dawn meal that is consumed before the start of the fast. It is deemed an essential meal as it helps provide the necessary energy and nutrients to sustain the body throughout the day.
The meal is usually eaten before dawn, around 4am to 5am depending on the location, and is followed by the fajr (dawn) prayer.
The fast is then broken at sunset with an iftar meal, which is followed by the call to the maghrib (sunset) prayers.
The iftar meal usually begins with dates as they are naturally high in sugar and have the right kinds of carbohydrates to rejuvenate the body’s energy levels. It is then followed by a soup or porridge, main course, and dessert that are often shared among family, friends and those in need.
For convenience, some families also choose to have iftar meals at F&B establishments after a long day at work. As such, non-Muslims may want to avoid dining in at halal-certified eateries or restaurants during the iftar period between 7pm and 7.30pm.
The Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) also advises individuals who are unwell to break their fasts at home.
3. There are exemptions from fasting
There are certain groups of people who are exempt from fasting during Ramadan.
Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding are not advised to fast as it would harm their health or the health of their baby. However, a pregnant woman is still permitted to fast if she is physically able to do so, according to MUIS.
Women who are menstruating should not fast, as the blood loss can potentially lead to fatigue.
Those who require regular medication or treatment that cannot be delayed or missed can also choose not to fast. This includes the elderly who are unable to fast due to health reasons.
Muslim travellers on long commutes are also not required to fast. However, if they choose to do so, they can break their fasts without adhering to the fasting times of the departure or arrival country.
Instead, they can break their fast mid-journey when they see the sun set from their windows.
Travellers in countries or cities with unusually long days like Reykjavik (capital of Iceland) are advised to follow the fasting hours of Saudi Arabia, where Mecca is instead. They can also follow the schedule of their home country.
Those who are exempt from fasting are also expected to compensate by fasting on other days to make up for the days they have missed.
4. Muslims engage in more acts of charities and generosity during Ramadan
During the last 10 days of Ramadan, Muslims engage in more acts of charity and generosity as it is considered a time of great blessings and rewards.
The period is where a day known as Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) occurs – the holiest night in Ramadan. It is the night when Angel Gabriel revealed the first verses of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad in 610 CE. The prophet then continued to receive revelations of the Quran over a 23-year period.
While the exact date of Laylat-al-Qadr remains unspecified, it is known to have occurred on one of the odd nights during the last 10 days of the sacred month. This means that the night could fall on Apr 13, 15, 17, 19 or 21 this year.
In these 10 days, followers observe the evening by offering extra prayers and reciting the Quran as they believe angels will descend to earth with blessings, mercy and forgiveness.
5. There are special prayers that are only performed during Ramadan
Ramadan is not complete without the annual tarawih prayers.
Tarawih is a special prayer that Muslims perform only during the month of Ramadan. The word “tarawih” comes from the Arabic word “tarawihah”, which translates to “resting or taking a break.”
The prayers consist of sets of two rak’ahs (units of prayer) with a short break in between. These prayers are typically led by an imam (prayer leader) and performed during congregations in the mosque.
Tarawih prayers are not obligatory, but are highly recommended during the month of Ramadan. Muslims believe that performing the prayers brings great reward and blessings from Allah, and helps to strengthen their connection with him during the month of fasting.
As the Islamic day begins at sunset, the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan will be performed the evening before the month-long fast begins.
This year, a total of 98,550 spaces will be provided at 67 mosques for tarawih prayers. Bookings are only required at 10 mosques where demand is high.
The 10 mosques are: Masjid Al-Islah, Masjid Al-Istighfar, Masjid Al-Taqua, Masjid Darul Ghufran, Masjid An-Nur, Masjid Darul Makmur, Masjid Yusof Ishak, Masjid Al-Abrar, Masjid Tasek Utara and Masjid Al-Khair.
Congregants can make a booking for the tarawih sessions at the 10 mosques from Mar 16. They may also book these sessions throughout the month of Ramadan.
Dedicated spaces for female congregants will also be available at most mosques. The tarawih prayers will commence right after isha prayers.