Ramadan – The month of Fasting
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Every year in the month of Ramadan, the majority of Muslims (Submitters) fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, pregnant, elderly, or traveling, can make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they can feed a needy person for every day missed.
Specific days (are designated for fasting); if one is ill or traveling, an equal number of other days may be substituted. Those who can fast, but with great difficulty, may substitute feeding one poor person for each day of breaking the fast. If one volunteers (more righteous works), it is better. But fasting is the best for you, if you only knew. (2:184)
Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. GOD wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify GOD for guiding you, and to express your appreciation. (2:185)
Fasting in Arabic is called, “Siyam” or “Saum,” which literally means ‘to be at rest.’ Contrary to what many people believe, fasting did not start with Muhammad. It started with prophet Abraham like other practices of Islam. All the messengers and prophets who followed Abraham, including Moses and Jesus, observed these religious practices.
O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation. (2:183)
Fasting – Blessing in Disguise
The religious practices instituted by God, such as fasting, are blessings from God. If we can practice our religious duties the way we are supposed to, we get many benefits. Furthermore, these practices allow us to be more conscious of God in our lives.
The practices essentially constitute the nourishment required for the growth and development of our souls to make it to Heaven. They are for our own good. God is in no need of any of our prayers and worship.
Besides nourishing our soul, the real self, fasting also has numerous, scientifically proven benefits for our physical health and the mental well-being of our body. The time, length and nature of the fast all contribute to its overall positive effect. Fasting gives our digestive system a rest and improves our physical health. In his book “Fasting and Eating for Health,” (ISBN 031218719X) Joel Fuhrman, M.D. notes that “The fast does not merely detoxify; it also breaks down superfluous tissue—fat, abnormal cells, atheromatous plaque, and tumors—and releases diseased tissues and their cellular products into the circulation for elimination. Toxic or unwanted materials circulate in our bloodstream and lymphatic tissues, and are deposited in and released from our fat stores and other tissues. An important element of fasting detoxification is mobilizing the toxins from their storage areas.”
Ramadan Varies Every Year
A lunar month is approximately 29.5 days, which is the time it takes for the moon to orbit the earth. Because a lunar month is, on the average, one day shorter than a solar month, a lunar year is 10-12 days shorter than a solar year. Therefore, the Month of Ramadan comes 10-12 days earlier each year. This way we get to fast when the days are very warm and long in summer as well as when they are cool and short in winter. This beautiful design by God is also a test for us to see if we will fast regardless of the length or temperature of the days of Ramadan.
Is Moon Sighting Necessary?
God gave us scientific knowledge to determine exactly when a lunar month will begin and end. Therefore there is no need to sight the crescent of the moon to start fasting, like some traditional Muslims do. Any observatory or astronomy center should have that information for your area. Some almanacs, magazines or newspapers also report the times for the phases of the moon. To determine when one should start fasting, compare the time the new lunar month begins with the time of sunset, the beginning of a day in the Islamic calendar.
What is an Islamic Day?
The Islamic day is the same as the Hebrew day. It begins at sunset and ends at the next sunset. In this system, the night comes before the day. Therefore, in some traditional Islamic countries, when they talk about, for instance, Friday night, they are actually referring to Thursday night because that night actually belongs to Friday according to their definition of a day.
How to Calculate Ramadan
To calculate the Ramadan start date, compare the time of the New Moon with the Sunset in your location. If the new moon is born before sunset, you should fast the next day God willing.
Similarly to determine the last day of fasting, compare the time of the next New Moon with the sunset in your location. If the new moon is born before sunset, the month of Ramadan is complete on that day.
The Night of Destiny
The Night of Power or the Night of Destiny (Layl-al-Qadr) is the night in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. It is the 27th night of Ramadan. God describes this night as better than a thousand months. During that night, the angels and the Spirit descend therein, by God’s leave, to carry out every command (97:1-5).
The Night of Power starts at the sunset of 26th day of Ramadan corresponding to the 27th night. It ends at the dawn of the following morning. This year it starts at the sunset of October 29.
Note: Like every year, there will be gatherings of Submitters in different communities around the world for the Night of Destiny to commemorate God all night long. Please check with your local community for such a gathering (Ed.)
Thanksgiving Day comes about three weeks after Ramadan this year. Both Ramadan and Thanksgiving offer opportunities for people to reflect on being grateful to God for His blessings. However, we should remember and be thankful to God in every circumstance, not only on special occasions like Ramadan or Thanksgiving Day. The rewards for being appreciative are manifold. We reap their benefit not only in the Hereafter, but starting right away here in this world.
Therefore, you shall eat from GOD’s provisions everything that is lawful and good, and be appreciative of GOD’s blessings, if you do worship Him alone. (16:114)
Your Lord has decreed: “The more you thank Me, the more I give you.” But if you turn unappreciative, then My retribution is severe. (14:7)