Muslims across the world, Nigeria included, are preparing for the holy month of Ramadan. This critical period in the Islamic calendar is marked each year. It is a period for self-reflection, seeking atonement for sin, and showing love and generosity towards the less fortunate. The use of the Ramadan 2019 timetable guides every Muslim in observing the approved times for prayer and fasting. Ramadan Kareem to all Muslim sisters and brothers in Nigeria.
Ramadan refers to the ninth month of the calendar in Islam. During this month, Muslims engage in fasting (sawm) to mark the initial disclosure of the Holy Quran to Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan fasting is one of the five primary pillars of Islam.
How long is Ramadan? This holy month lasts 29 or 30 days depending on the time the crescent moon is sighted. Ramadan 2019 begins on the 6th of May and ends on the 4th of June.
The 5 pillars
In the Islam religion, the 5 pillars are the following:
- Shahada meaning faith
- Salat referring to praying five times each day while facing Mecca
- Zakat meaning that one should help the poor people
- Sawm meaning fasting
- Hajj that means making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in every Muslim's lifetime
History of Ramadan
The Holy Quran serves as a guide that assists a Muslim to differentiate between right and wrong and to live a righteous life. Why is Ramadan celebrated? The Holy book was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad during the powerful night (Laylat al-Qadr), and Ramadan is a celebration of this revelation. This obligatory month of sawm shows one’s fear of God and oneness with Him. It is also a month of repentance, generosity, love, and perseverance. Ramadan was first observed in 624 CE during the second year of Hirja.
In Islam, Ramadan is the month of sawm. This means that every adult Muslim should restrain from drinking, eating, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset. One is only permitted to break the fast after the sounding of the adhan (the muezzin makes a call to worship).
Ramadan facts and requirements
Fasting is acceptable and valid if one meets two crucial things:
- There must be a genuine intention (niyyah) to fast before dawn. This purpose should not be expressed verbally. Instead, it should be from the heart and driven by obedience to Allah.
- One must exercise self-restraint from any deeds that could nullify the fast. Achieving this requires discipline and the fear of Allah.
In the Quran, sawm means abstinence from something. It is a guard that teaches Muslims to control their desire and to live in moderation. The month reinforces self-restraint and piety which are elements of holistic and righteous living. In this obligatory month, every able human being (mukallaf) has to observe these rules:
1. People who are obligated to fast
Every adult Muslim who has experienced puberty should fast regardless of their gender.
2. Taking sahur
3. Taking iftar
One must take their breakfast (iftar) soon after sunset. According to the Shariah, sunset is marked when the sun’s disk goes beyond the horizon and disappears.
4. Abstinence from false actions and talk
During this Holy month, Muslims must not quarrel, argue or initiate disputes. Insulting words must be avoided. Instead, one must be disciplined and ethical. Sawm is a reflective and peaceful period, so one must not boast or excessively talk about their fasting. It is forbidden to show a hungry stomach, quick temper or dry lips to others. Being a person of good cheer and high spirits is advised.
5. Engaging in charitable acts
During sawm, Muslims should be generous to others. A generosity that is not driven by show off should be exercised. One must also be more prayerful and read the Quran more often. Every Muslim should read the Holy Book at least once during the month of fasting.
Deeds that are permitted during fasting
1. Having a bath/taking a shower
One is allowed to shower, even if it is driven by overheating or thirst. Swimming is permitted as long as the person fasting does not swallow the pool water.
2. Rinsing the nose and mouth
One may rinse their nose and mouth with water. This must not be done vigorously because excessive water could make one to swallow some of it. If one consumes water when rinsing, the fast becomes invalid.
If the injections are for medical or nutritional reasons, they may be taken as advised by the experts.
4. Using eye drops or eyeliner
One may use kohl eyeliner or drops even if its taste can be felt down the throat.
5. Consuming food by accident
The accidental ingestion of food or involuntary consumption does not invalidate a fast.
6. Tasting food
Sawm is not cancelled if one tastes food with their tongue, as long as the food is not swallowed.
7. Using suppositories
It is okay to douche or have an enema done. Cleaning the rectum through the anus via injection of a liquid for therapeutic reasons is allowed. Similarly, using a suppository or any other medicine in the private region is permitted.
8. Brushing teeth
One is allowed to brush their teeth using a toothbrush or mswaak. Swallowing the water or mouthwash invalidates the fasting, so one must be cautious.
9. Can I draw blood during sawm?
Yes, drawing blood for medical reasons or blood donation is allowed. If the action makes one weak, it becomes undesirable.
10. Kissing and other forms of displaying affection
One is allowed to kiss or embrace their spouse as long as they can control themselves.
11. The condition of janaabah after Fajr
Sawn is not invalidated by being in janaabah after dawn (Fajr). Janaabah refers to the ritual impurity following ejaculation or sexual intercourse. If one finds themselves in this state after Fajr, they must take a full body bath (ghusl) before continuing with their fast.
12. Perfumes and scents
One can use and breathe in fragrances and perfumes. Doing so does not invalidate fasting.
Actions that invalidate sawm
Every Muslim who is fasting should avoid things and activities that nullify their fast. When the fast is broken, qadaa’ is required. This refers to making up for the days that one did not fast. These things invalidate fasting:
- When a woman starts her menstrual period or post-delivery bleeding, even if it is moments to sunset, the fast becomes invalid.
- Engaging in sexual intercourse or any sexual activity such as masturbation leading to ejaculation in men or vaginal secretions in women makes the sawm invalid. Sex while fasting is forbidden. Those who do so must make up for the days (qadaa’) and practice kaffarah. The later means compensation by feeding 60 people living in poverty for each of the days the fast was broken or fasting for 60 days after the Ramadan period is over.
- The deliberate consumption of some food, smoking or drinking water or alcohol makes the fast invalid. If this is done, one must perform both qadaa’ and kaffarah.
- Intentionally making oneself purge.
Exemption from fasting
There are unique situations that may exempt Muslims from fasting. When these conditions occur, one is required to make up for the fast later. Those who cannot make up for the fast should feed one poor person for each day they are unable to fast. This is known as paying fidiya. Exemptions from fasting are made if:
- One is travelling (they should make up for these days)
- One is temporarily ill (they should make up the days after they recover)
- One has a permanent illness (they should pay fidiya)
- A woman is experiencing post-delivery bleeding or menstruating (They should make up for the days once the bleeding stops)
- A woman is pregnant and weak (if sawn during pregnancy causes weakness, the woman can make up the days later or feed one poor person for each missed day)
Acts that bring more rewards from Allah
Some actions bring added favour from God. These are the following:
- Hurrying to break the fast at sunset
- Breaking the fast by eating an odd number of dry or fresh dates — dates are the most commonly consumes Ramadan food. Other healthy foods are recommended.
- Using mswaak to clean the teeth — this is a piece of root that is obtained from the Arkaak tree.
- Increasing the recitation of the Quran — studying the Quran more brings favour.
- Praying the Taraweeh after Isha
The 2019 Ramadan Timetable for Nigeria
Note: All times are in WAT (West Africa Time)
At the end of Ramadan, the Festival of Breaking the Fast, also known as Eid al-Fitr, is celebrated. This year, the festival will begin on the 4th of June and extend to the 6th of June. The date varies depending on the exact time that the local religious leaders spot the moon. On this day, a special prayer (salat) is said. Afterward, people enter into an abundant feast where different foods are served. Sharing the feast is encouraged.
Ramadan 2019 begins on the 6th of May in Nigeria. The period will run until the 4th of June. During this period of sawm, all Muslims are encouraged to adhere to all the Ramadan rules. May this period be filled with peace, love, understanding, and harmony in the local communities. Ramadan Kareem to all the Nigerian Muslims!