In a few days, Muslims around the world will begin their observance of Ramadan. Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new crescent moon which is why it could begin either on the 26th or the 27th of this month. Under the lunar calendar, months last between 29 to 30 days depending on the moon sighting on the 29th of each month. If the moon is not visible by then, the lunar month lasts 30 days.
Following the Gregorian solar calendar, the first day of Ramadan comes 10 to 12 days earlier each year. Last year, Ramadan began on June 6.
However, for many Muslims, preparations for Ramadan begin way before its first day. On the 15th day of the lunar month preceding Ramadan, some opt to fast as it is believed to be a blessed time in which those who repent shall be forgiven, those who seek provisions shall be provided for, and those who are in distress shall be comforted by Allah.
The month of Ramadan is ultimately a time for reflection and repentance, allowing Muslims to reorient their lives and remember what is truly important in their lives. Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of a world that is increasingly becoming impatient and inconsiderate, people tend to forget that there is more to life than deadlines and quick fixes. Personal relationships with friends and family, especially one’s personal relationship with Allah, and the responsibilities that come with these relationships are sometimes neglected in favor of passivity and complacence.
During this Holy Month, Muslims take the time to look into themselves and be reminded of what truly matters. It is a time when one rids the self of worldly distractions to focus on one’s spirit and how one is linked to the rest of the ummah – the Muslim community – and Allah himself. In this time of solidarity, there is a special connection among Muslims that is strengthened and reinforced despite geographical distance.
After years of observance, some would think that Ramadan gets easier with every year that passes, but that is hardly the case. Fasting by refraining from food and water, which is the activity most people associate with Ramadan is just but one of the many things Muslims have to observe during the Holy Month.
Truth be told, the physical challenges that come with a month-long fast is the easiest part of observing Ramadan. It is the fasting which involves the mind and spirit which requires more willpower and dedication – the “fasting” from impatience, the avoidance of anger, the conscious effort to withdraw from easy relief and thoughtless action.
Fasting helps every Muslim in building one’s strength as he struggles against the temptations that are present in his surroundings. It develops one’s self-discipline which allows one to make decisions that are pleasing to Allah and are true to the spirit of Islam.
Muslims are also encouraged to engage in acts of charity during Ramadan, not in exchange for favor in the eyes of the ummah or Allah, but in the spirit of generosity of kindness.
At the heart of Ramadan season is patience and perseverance – sabr – that pushes one beyond his limits when the fast seems too long and the body feels too weak. It is a time when one’s faith sustains one’s body and spirit, as one locates himself in a context far greater than his personal circumstances.
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