This week, starting from the 15th May, millions of Muslims across the world have begun observing their period of Ramadan. eSense Translations shares in our blog this week what this can involves and how it impacts Muslims on a day-to-day basis.
Ramadan is a month long period of reflection and sacrifice that enables those of the Islam faith to reconnect with their religion and replenish their spirituality.
One of the most well-known practices and one that has the biggest impact on daily life at this time is a period of fasting. Muslims will abstain from any food or drink from sunrise to sunset during this time. Ramadan falls at different times each year, as it is in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on the lunar calendar. This means that each year Ramadan occurs 11 days earlier. This year, it has become particularly challenging as it has fallen at a time when the days are almost at their longest. Muslims in the U.K. will get up very early before sunrise to have a meal (suhoor) with their friends and family and then will not break their fast until late at night (iftar). Therefore, along with the absence of food and drink for a long period of time during the day, the extended daylight hours also means that Muslims can also have reduced sleep. Of course in other parts of the world, Muslims’ fasting period will vary due to the amount of daylight hours in that country.
This fasting period is further challenging for smokers, as this is also abstained from during daylight hours of Ramadan.
Almost all Muslims are expected to fast during Ramadan, however there are exceptions including: the young, the elderly, pregnant ladies and the unwell or frail. Furthermore, if you need to take medication, it is mostly considered appropriate to do so and the fast would not be broken. The Muslim Council of Britain has provided guidance on what medication is considered acceptable to take during Ramadan.
For those Muslims, who are not able to fast, there are other ways in which they can show their commitment to the faith and achieve spirituality. This can be through making a donation to a poor family, known as a ‘fidyah’, of normally around £4-5 per day.
Ramadan is a time for self-reflection, patience, generosity and restraint and fasting plays a part in this practice, however there are other things that Muslims should be abstaining from at this time.
One of these things is intimate relations with your partner. Some people suggest that this is due to the sharing of saliva, which breaks the fasting. However, it could also be explained through the adherence to some of values given above.
Muslims should also avoid gossiping and swearing. This is a general rule to stick to throughout the year, but especially during Ramadan, as it is certainly not considered a holy practice.
As a time of spirituality, Ramadan is also a period when Muslims concentrate on prayer. In Islam, it is customary to pray five times a day throughout the year. During Ramadan, prayer should also accompany the start and breaking of the fast. Furthermore, there are many other prayers that can accompany specific aspects of Ramadan. These can be found here.
Ramadan is a time to reconnect with religion. It also enables you to become appreciative of what you have and how lucky you are. It teaches you patience and also self-discipline. However, it can also be a challenge to continue to function as normal in daily life. As one millennial describes, there are certain strategies that Muslims employ to make daily functioning easier. For example, people may get into the habit of missing meals during the day and they will ensure that they are properly hydrated outside of daylight hours to prepare for the day ahead – particularly in the summer time. Another strategy to make things easier is to ensure one’s cupboards are fully stocked to be ready for when the fast can be broken. Additionally, if it not feasible to take a bit of time off work, it is also a good idea to inform your colleagues and people you spend your day with that you are fasting, so that they can be sympathetic to your practice.
At a time when destructive talk should be avoided, Ramadan also offers a period for adopting a more positive outlook on life and avoiding other negative influences. It can be a time to strengthen family and community connections, as you all share in the same practice together.
At eSense Translations, we feel that there are many things that others can learn from the practices that Muslims adopt during Ramadan. Although, I am not suggesting we all need to fast for 18-19 hours a day, what we could do is concentrate more on the important things in life, focus on how lucky we are and adopt a more positive approach to life.
At eSense Translations, we are always keen to hear your views. Are you observing Ramadan? If so, what strategies do you employ to ensure you are able to continue with your normal daily functioning? Let us know in the comments below.
By Lorna Paice