Ramadan: A spiritual journey of reflection, unity and charity


Tiger Media Network

Ramadan is a significant month in the Islamic lunar calendar (also known as the Hijri calendar). It is rooted in Islamic tradition and is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam, symbolizing the core beliefs and practices of the religion. Ramadan lasts for one month. During this time, Muslims around the world fast and pray. In prayer and almsgiving, they convey love and care, embodying the true meaning of faith and unity.

Ramadan in 2024 began on March 11 and will conclude tomorrow (April 9). Since the start of Ramadan for Muslims is based on the phases of the moon, and the phases of the moon vary around the world at the same time, the start of Ramadan may vary by one or two days in different regions.

 “During Ramadan, Muslims engage in various practices to commemorate the month, including fasting, increased prayers in the mosque, reading, and understanding the Holy Quran, attending Islamic lectures, and participating in acts of charity, generosity, and kindness,” said FHSU Assistant Professor and advisor for the Muslim Student Association Farheen Khan.

Believers are required to fast during this month of Ramadan. Eating, drinking, smoking and daytime intimacy are avoided from sunrise to sunset.

Every day, ‘Suhoor’ is performed before dawn to ensure good health during the fast, followed by the morning prayer AI Fajr to start the day’s fast. After sunset, the fast is interrupted with the Iftar,’ and the fast begins again at dawn on the following day.

“Fasting during Ramadan entails abstaining from food and drink from sunrise until sunset.” Khan said. “Muslims observe their fast with a pre-dawn meal called ‘Suhoor’ and break their fast at sunset with dates and water, followed by a meal called ‘Iftar.’”

 Ramadan fasting does not apply to children under the age of six. Children ages 7-12 may fast for a limited time. Children over the age of 12 must observe all Ramadan rules equally with adults. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, women during menstruation, diabetics, the seriously ill and the elderly are exempt from fasting. But even so, many people still enjoy fasting because of their faith.

“My son is 11 and I said to him ‘it’s ok if you don’t want to be fasting,’ but he still wants to be fasting. He goes to school every day and all the kids eat lunch at break time, but he is fasting,” Khan said. “When he plays sports, he sweats a lot, but he doesn’t drink water. My sister’s child is six years old and his mom says ‘don’t fast’, but her son still fasts; even though he’s only six years old, he still wants to fast.”

While there are no specific foods or drinks associated with Ramadan, each culture has its traditional dishes commonly enjoyed during this month.

“Muslims adhere to dietary restrictions, consuming only halal meat and poultry, while abstaining from alcohol, wine, pork, and bacon.,” Khan said. “Traditional Ramadan recipes vary widely depending on cultural preferences. Some popular dishes include samosas, pakoras, falafel, kebabs, biryani, lentil soup, healthy juices, and various desserts like baklava and kunafa.” 

According to Khan, fasting during Ramadan, instead of having a bad effect on the body, can help reduce weight, improve digestive health, control blood sugar, improve blood circulation, and many other benefits.

“Some nutritionists are also talking about the health benefits of fasting. They say that prolonged fasting detoxifies the body and helps with physical health, gut health,” she said.

The significance of Ramadan is not only in material fasting, but also in spiritual purification and practice. Ramadan is a time for personal reflection and spiritual growth, as well as a time to show compassion and generosity to the less fortunate.

“Ramadan is a wonderful time to connect with the community. Communities have their special traditions and rituals, such as communal prayers in the mosque, sharing iftar meals with neighbors, distributing food to the less fortunate,” Khan said. “If you go to the mosque, they will be friendly and warm, they will treat you like everyone else, they think you are from God, you are a guest of God and we must respect that. If you eat at my table, I will be very happy and I will say it is my pleasure.”

Charity during Ramadan has a special meaning because any good deed done during Ramadan is multiplied and returned.

The odd-numbered nights of the last 10 days of Ramadan are known as the Nights of Power, and believers must persevere in worship, prayer, and repentance on the odd-numbered nights of the last 10 days in an effort to obtain the forgiveness, mercy, and blessing of God Allah.

“All through Ramadan, we will do good things, but in these last few days we will do even bigger good things, very big,” Khan said. “Because the energy of the moon is strongest these days. If we do one good thing, God will reward us 7000-8000 times.”

The purpose of Ramadan is to bring believers closer to Allah so that they do not forget the suffering experienced by the less fortunate. During this time, many Muslim believers make donations to charitable organizations to feed the hungry, provide financial assistance to help improve the quality of life of those whose families are in financial difficulties and finance their schooling.

“Ramadan is a wonderful time to connect with the community,” Khan said. “Communities have their special traditions and rituals, such as communal prayers in the mosque, sharing iftar meals with neighbors, distributing food to the less fortunate, extended prayers known as Tarawih at the mosque, and Qiyam ul Lail/ Tahajjud, which are extended prayers in the last ten days of Ramadan.”

According to Khan, during Ramadan, Muslims often focus on fulfilling their religious obligations, which includes the distribution of Zakat. Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and it’s an obligatory form of almsgiving or charity for those who are financially capable. It’s typically calculated at 2.5% of a person’s wealth that has been held for a full lunar year.

“We would make donations at Muslim restaurants or to people in need. For example, at the hospital, there are some patients, sometimes they are elderly. They had an accident or they are physically sick. But they don’t have enough money to pay their expensive bills because they don’t have a job or other reasons. So we go to the hospital and we ask them how much money they need and we help them pay it,” Khan said. “For example, in Saudi Arabia, it’s very hot and they buy an air conditioner for the people who need it. They find out what the poor or disadvantaged people need and then they give them what they need as a gift.”

Often, after doing good deeds, Muslims hide their names because they believe that Allah has seen what they have done and will reward them.

“In Ramadan, if you do good things, I want to do more good things than you do. This is a powerful month for us, that’s why we want to give to others; one small thing we do, Allah will have great power to return it to you,” Khan said. “We believe that, as we say, in the theory of karma. If you do good things, good things will happen to you. If you do bad things, even worse things will happen to you. Our belief is that if God will reward me in this life, it’s okay, and if not, he will reward me later, such as in the world after death.”

This act of giving aligns with the heightened emphasis on charity and goodwill during the holy month, fostering social justice and alleviating poverty within the community. In Muslim countries across the globe, the spirit during Ramadan reaches another level with anonymous payment of hospital bills, payments of tuition fees for students, marriage arrangements for the less fortunate, construction of mosques, food donations, generous charities, and other support for the less fortunate in the community. 

According to Khan, during Ramadan, there’s a drive to excel in good deeds, kindness and charity as it’s believed to be a holy month abundant with tremendous blessings and special reward, both in this world and hereafter, from Allah.

Khan says she instills these teachings into her everyday life with her children. 

“I ask my kids every day, ‘What did you do today?’ He’ll say, ‘I had a friend fall and I picked her up, or there was a bullying incident at my school and I told the teacher or I saved him.’  I’ll tell them well done. I encourage them to do even small things,” Khan said.

Then, it becomes a habit to help others.

“When I’m cooking, my child will ask me if I need help. Even if I say I don’t need it, he will help me bring a glass of water,” she said. “If a teacher is carrying a lot of books, my son will offer to help her share some of the weight of the books, walk with her, and help her with something.”

During Ramadan, while there is no specific dress code, Khan said some individuals choose to wear either traditional or their finest attire during prayer. She said Muslim clothing varies across different cultures and regions and reflects the principles of modesty. This includes the thobe for men and hijab for women. Women may also incorporate loose and modest garments like the abaya or jilbab for additional modesty. 

“Some commonly apply Oud oil as concentrated perfume on their hands and body, also burn exquisite bakhoor at home and mosques as part of a cultural tradition,” Khan said. “Additionally, households may decorate their homes with lights, lanterns, crescent, Islamic geometrical shapes, and other festive decorations.”

In different cultures and regions, Ramadan is celebrated in different ways.

 “In some countries, communities come together for large iftar meals, while in others, families may focus more on intimate gatherings at home,” Khan said. 

 At the conclusion of Ramadan, they celebrate ‘Eid Al Fitr,’ marked by wearing new clothes, children receiving gifts or cash envelopes, and women and girls adorning their hands with henna. There are special prayers at the mosque followed by family gatherings, a big feast, and celebrations.

“At the end of Ramadan, we have events, some like Christmas, but we don’t give gifts, we give money, so they get envelopes,” Khan said. “On that day they have to dress up nicely and wear traditional dresses and then go for greeting. All the children wear their nice clothes in the morning and they will have a purse and a small bag. They will look like princesses and the boys look pretty. They get together and go to the neighbors’ houses, like trick-or-treating on Halloween. If they are greeting, you have to give them something, money, candy, some people give chocolates or toys. But most people will give money. ”

Ramadan has a different meaning for every Muslim, and for Khan, it is a time of reflection and spiritual renewal.

“Personally, celebrating Ramadan is a time of spiritual renewal and reflection for me. It involves strengthening my connection with my faith, family, and community through acts of worship, charity, and gratitude. In addition to my daily religious practices,” she said. “I take great pleasure in contributing to and sharing meals with the community, engaging in donations, and assisting those in need. I find solace in the belief that the rewards from the divine will be plentiful.”

 Ramadan has an impact on the lives and communities of Muslims.

“The significance of Ramadan extends beyond individual lives to impact entire communities,” Khan said. “It fosters unity, empathy, generosity, social justice, goodwill, solidarity while also promoting self-discipline and spiritual growth. Ramadan is a time of reflection, and increased devotion to our faith. Through fasting, prayer, and acts of charity, Ramadan strengthens our bond with each other and deepens our connection to our core beliefs.”

Khan reiterates that for those unfamiliar with Ramadan, it’s essential to understand it is a time of immense spiritual significance for Muslims worldwide. It’s not just about fasting; it’s about self-reflection, discipline, empathy, and striving to be the best version of oneself. 

“During Ramadan, it’s important to be considerate by potentially reducing their workload, providing a flexible schedule, and offering support, as many fast all day and stay awake for prayers at night,” Khan said. “In many Islamic countries, holidays are observed during Ramadan, enabling greater participation in religious activities.”

The FHSU Muslim Student Association hosted a Ramadan celebration in March. Below are some submitted photos from the event.