Ramadan, or Ramazan as I learned it many years ago, started August 11th this year. It made the news the other night because of some football player who is a Muslim is going to be observing Ramadan, and they are concerned with his ability to play during the fast. Of course… football… we can’t have someone impaired and not entertaining us, can we? But, I must look at the good side and shut that cynical self up… The good side is, it brings up the concept of Ramadan and thus the meaning is there for those who want to learn from it. So, a number of my friends have asked me about it knowing that I have many Muslim friends and Muslim family members.
For many, it is just seen as a time of fasting, from sunrise to sunset. But it is so much more than that. I will include a link to an excellent site for anyone who wants to learn more about Islam – not the fundamentalist jerks, who, like most any other fundamentalist group take holy words and distort them into a license for violence, but the true Islam which is a religion of peace. I know it is not perceived that way in this country anymore, but we often judge an entire people by the actions of a radical few. And another truth is, many of us in the USA see “them” in exactly the same way as they see us – after all, we have troops on the ground in several Muslim countries, we have bombed wedding parties, innocent villagers, farmers in their fields, women, children and babies in their mother’s arms… and we have a reputation for “occupying” countries, keeping a military presence after we are no longer being openly called the enemy.
If you have an open mind and wish to learn more, I suggest you visit http://www.islamicity.com/ramadan/ . It is an excellent site if you wish to be educated about Islam.
The following are excerpts from Islamicity on Ramadan. I have included a few things folks don’t expect to see… things beyond the usual fasting rules and prayer.
Eat, drink and be moderate
Almost all of us do it - once [the sun sets], we just keep plowing food and drink into our mouths till it's hard to move afterwards. And those of us who do it know this is totally contrary to the spirit of Ramadan, through which we're supposed to learn self-control not self-indulgence. Let's try to stick to the Prophetic rule on eating: fill our stomachs with one-third food, one-third water and one-third breathing space, even in Ramadan.
Give a dollar a day in charity...or five or ten
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was always generous but even more so in Ramadan. Let's open our hearts and dig a little deeper in our wallets this year. Even less than a dollar a day adds up. Whatever you can give, it's the intention that counts.
Stop swearing and/or backbiting - with a special box
It's hard not to shoot our mouths off when someone's upset us. Whether we utter those four-letter words or backbite about someone to our family and friends, we know this isn't the God-approved way of letting off steam. In Ramadan, when we want to build our spirituality, we've got to [fight] our bad habits.
Try this: get a box [or jar] and every time you catch yourself swearing or backbiting put some money in it. It could be a buck or less. The point is to choose an amount that makes it feel like punishment.
At the end of the month send the money to a charity or buy a gift for the person whom you've backbitten the most against.
Call/email your relatives
You'd think that given the easy access to email, competitive long-distance calling rates, phone cards, etc. these days, we'd keep in touch with family and friends more often. But the opposite seems to be the case, as we get caught up in life's "busyness."
Strengthening ties with family members and keeping in touch with friends is part of our way of life and an act Allah is very pleased with. This Ramadan, call family and friends or at least email them a Ramadan card and ask them how their fasting is going.
Go on a technology diet
Even if you work in the IT industry, you can do this. Avoid checking personal email and surfing the web during your fast. After [the sun sets], instead of plopping yourself in front of the screen, pray. The same goes for the television. The point is to try to give our full attention to spiritual elevation this month.
Forgive everyone who has hurt you
Still got a festering wound from the fight with your friend last year? Still upset about something your spouse said during a heated argument? Or are you still bitter about the way your parents sometimes treated you as a kid? Let go of the anger and pain this Ramadan and forgive those who have hurt you. Forgiving someone is not only good for the body, but it's also great for the soul. And in Ramadan, ten days of which are devoted to Allah's forgiveness, shouldn't we lesser beings forgive too?
If you find it very difficult to forgive everyone, forgive at least three people.
Q: Why does Ramadan begin on a different day each year?
Because Ramadan is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days earlier each year. Throughout a Muslim's lifetime, Ramadan will fall both during winter months, when the days are short, and summer months, when the days are long and the fast is more difficult. In this way, the difficulty of the fast is evenly distributed between Muslims living in the northern and southern hemispheres.
Q: What do Muslims believe they gain from fasting?
One of the main benefits of Ramadan is an increased compassion for those in need of the necessities of life, a sense of self-purification and reflection and a renewed focus on spirituality. Muslims also appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by family and friends throughout the month. Perhaps the greatest practical benefit is the yearly lesson in self-restraint and discipline that can carry forward to other aspects of a Muslim's life such as work and education.
Q: Are there any exemptions from fasting?
Some of these exemptions are optional.
Children under the age of puberty (Young children are encouraged to fast as much as they are able.)
People who are mentally incapacitated or not responsible for their actions
Travelers who are on journeys of more than about fifty miles
Pregnant women and nursing mothers
Women who are menstruating
Those who are temporarily unable to fast must make up the missed days at another time or feed the poor.
Q: Is fasting just about not eating and drinking during daylight hours?
Despite what many may think Ramadan is just not about restraining from food and drink. Muslims must also refrain from things such as verbal abuse, fighting, eavesdropping, backbiting, lying and slander as these acts render the fast as worthless. In essence Muslims must be model human beings during the fast. The act of abstinence is not meant to starve you; it is an act of worship like prayer. It enables people with plenty to empathize with those who have very little in this world.