With Muslims throughout South Leeds fasting for Ramadan, we asked Naz Maroof from Beeston charity Aspiring Communities to explain the significance of the holy month.
There are two reasons for fasting. The first is linked with the inner and fasting teaches an individual about being aware that God/Allah exists. The second is related to the outer which links to empathy and being able to relate to what the poor and needy around the world continue to go through. Ramadan is a time for contemplation to fast, and to pray, and to think deeply about others.
Take us through a typical day during Ramadan
Muslims observe fasting from morning twilight to the evening twilight. During this time you are not allowed to eat or drink anything. We start the day by having something to eat and drink early in the morning before sunrise begins (currently 5am). We read the morning prayer- most people make extra effort to read in the mosques in congregation.
Most people will get a few hours rest before getting up for work. You still need to fulfil the remaining four compulsory prayers in their allocated times during the day.
During Iftar (the breaking of the fast at sunset) people usually open their fast with dates and water. Most people tend to prepare a variety of food and share it with many other people, neighbours, friends and family. People open their fast at each other’s house upon invitation and this is considered to be virtuous as one attains a lot of reward from God for offering and giving food to people to open their fasts. It is important to realise that during the breaking of the fast, people should not get carried away by eating to their full, but also think about people who are less fortunate than themselves and more importantly thank God for all that he has given you. The sunset prayer is offered during this time but you must open your fast first and have a little bit to eat and then offer your prayer and then have your main meal.
How do older people cope, or people with a health condition?
Older people who know they will find it difficult and struggle to keep the fast, they do not need to and would pay for two meals where someone who is less fortunate is able to buy himself/herself a meal twice a day. Again anyone with a health condition is also not required to fast and the same applies to them.
Are children expected to fast?
Children are not required to fast but sometimes they want to join in and they might keep a fast for a few hours when they are very long in the summer. The requirement is that they must have reached the age of puberty before it becomes compulsory on them to fast.
Ramadan is called the Holy Month, what else do you do during the month?
People tend to do more worship, try and read as much of the holy Quran as possible and seek God’s forgiveness. The revelation of the Quran occurred during the month of Ramadan. There are readings every night and we aim to have read the entire Quran by the 27th night of Ramadan. This is the night in which the Quran began to be revealed is referred to as the blessed night, most scholars believe this was on the 27th night of Ramadan.
During this month, majority of the Muslims give a lot of charity to people who are less fortunate. Prime Minister David Cameron recognised in his Ramadan message this year that Muslims give more to charity than any other religious group.
Ramadan finishes with festival of Eid, can you tell us about that?
When the month of Ramadan comes to an end we celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, which means the festival or celebration of fast breaking. Muslims are not only celebrating the end of fasting, but thanking Allah for the help and strength that he gave them throughout the previous month to help them practise self-control.
The festival begins when the first sight of the new moon is seen in the sky. Muslims in most countries rely on news of an official sighting, rather than looking at the sky themselves.
The celebratory atmosphere is increased by everyone wearing best or new clothes, and decorating their homes. We begin in the mosque with a short prayer. An important thing to realise is that Muslims use this opportunity to thank God for everything he has given to them and the charity element comes into this again. Before the Eid prayer every individual must pay Fitra (parents pay on behalf of their young children). This is a gift of food or money that each individual pays on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr. This is a charitable tax going towards the poor and needy who will have the opportunity to take part in the Eid celebrations wherever they are as they may not be as fortunate as some of us.
If you would like to find out more about Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr, Aspiring Communities are holding an Eid celebration meal, hosted by Beeston St Mary’s church, on Thursday 31 July 2014 from 6pm.