Ramadan: history, meaning and purpose of the Holy Month
How much do you know about Ramadan? Well, Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, prayers, and reflection observed by Muslims worldwide. During this period, the Islam community refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. They also get restricted from impure thoughts and bad behaviour during this occasion.
Two essential practices also define the holy month of Ramadan. The daily fasts that end at sunsets, where Muslims share meals with family and friends, and the end-of-Ramadan festival. To crown the month, Muslims conduct Eid al-Fitr which has become one of Islam’s essential holidays in the Muslim calendar.
History of Ramadan
The month of Ramadan remains the most sacred period of the year for Muslims over the years. It has a rich history that dates back to 610 A.D. According to Muslims, they believe that during this period, Prophet Muhammad received a revelation from God through Angel Gabriel about the Quran. That specific event is known as Laylat al-Qadr and is believed to have happened during Ramadan. Muslims therefore, fast and pray during this month to commemorate the revelation of the Quran.
When is it observed?
Over 1.8 billion Muslims across the globe gather to observe Ramadan on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, but it does not have a specific date on which it begins.
The start of the festival varies every year. The phases of the moon determine the beginning and end of the festival. There is a moon-sighting committee in Saudi Arabia tasked with announcing the opening date of the month-long event once they spot the new crescent moon. Once the new crescent is located in the sky by the committee, Ramadan is expected to commence the following day.
Date of observance: 2021
According to calculations from Astronomers, the 2022 Ramadan is set to begin on April 1 and end on May 1.
The meaning of Ramadan
Ramadan is a particular month of fasting and prayers for Muslims. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which form the fundamental beliefs in the Islamic religion. The word "Ramadan" has roots from the Arabic word 'Ramida" which means "heat" or "parched thirst" and "sun-baked ground." It reflects a time of sacrifice by fasting and ripping benefits when the festival comes to an end.
It is a period of spiritual reflection where Muslims pimp their houses, shops, and streets with bright and colourful decorations. The festival provides 30 days of deliberation, revelation, revolution, and restoration to Muslims through fasting and praying.
However, there is a group of people normally exempted from fasting during this period. They include the old aged, those who are sick, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, those travelling long distances and children below seven years.
Three phases of Ramadan
The annual event has three phases of 10 days each during the month of observance.
First Ashra – Days of Mercy
First Ashra marks the first ten days of the 30 days of prayer and fasting. Muslims use this period to seek mercy from Allah. It also calls for showing kindness to other people by helping and treating them well.
Second Ashra – Days of Forgiveness
The second Ashra is also known as the Days of Maghfirah. At this time, Allah’s forgiveness is at its peak; therefore, it is the period used to seek forgiveness of sins committed. People are also expected to be kind and forgive their beloved ones during these ten days.
Third Ashra – Days of Seeking Refuge
These are the last ten days of Ramadan. People spend these last 10 days in Mosque. It is a superior and important phase where Muslims ask Allah to keep them away from hell on judgment day.
What is the purpose of Ramadan?
The ultimate purpose of Ramadan is to get rid of old habits and develop and strengthen the powers of self-control and denial. It is a fundamental aspect that helps in day-to-day life improvement, achieved through prayers and fasting.
Fasting and prayers also draw people close to Allah during this period. Forming a secure connection with Allah is key to reaping the benefits that come from the holy month.
People also get the opportunity to seek forgiveness for their sins. It is a month of reformation and reflection of the past to prepare for a better future. Another important aspect is for people to forgive those who have wronged them. It opens the door for people to forgive others as they seek forgiveness from Allah.
The holy month of prayer and fasting also helps people acquire the values of sharing with family, friends and those in need. Charity and generosity are essential values advocated for during this festival. People learn to give rather than to take, and this reminds them of the blessings and privileges they have and how they can use them to help others.
In summary, Ramadan has helped Muslims make tremendous changes in their lives. People create a strong bond with Allah during this period that continues even after the end of the festival. It is a holy month of reflection, transformation, and renewal of the mind. Muslims culminate Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr celebration, where they visit with family and friends and exchange gifts for three days to mark the end of the month-long event.