Ramadan for Dummies

As a follower of the religion “Islam”, I am required to fast during the month of Ramadan every year, so that’s restricting myself from eating or drinking anything from dawn to dusk amongst other things. In this article I will summaries the main aspects of Ramadan in the hope that individuals with very little or no understanding of Ramadan can gain enough knowledge to appreciate their fellow muslim colleagues/friends/families etc.  

Why do muslims fast?

The observation of fasting is intended to bring the faithful person closer to the Lord (Allah) and to remind the individual of the suffering of those less fortunate, it is recommended that the financially fortunate individuals should also make donations to charities to help the destitute. 

Fasting can be considered to be an exercise in self-restraint, a fasting person will physically and spiritually detoxify by kicking impulses such as morning coffee/tea, smoking and snacking. 

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and performing the Hajj Pilgrimage in Makkah.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Hijri (Islamic) calendar. This year, Ramadan in the UK started on 17 May.

How fasting is performed? 

The fasting person must abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan (a single sip of water, any intake of food, a puff of a cigarette is considered enough to invalidate the fast (but if it was by genuine mistake then the fasting person should resume their fast).

The fasting person must also abstain from sexual intercourse with their spouse amongst other things such as gossiping, cursing, fighting and other unnecessary activities, instead observe the five daily prayers on time, recite the holy Quran and intensify remembrance of Allah.

To prepare for the fast, Muslims eat what is commonly called “Suhoor” a pre-dawn meal of power foods to get them through the day.  

How to break the fast?

Although individuals break fast in different ways, traditionally muslims break their fast like the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) did some 1,400 years ago, by offering a small prayer followed by drinking a little water and some dates at sunset. Muslims then perform the sunset prayer (Magrib) which is often followed by a large feast known as “Iftar” which is commonly shared with the family.

Across the Muslim world (and in communities where high Muslim population exist), mosques and aid organisations tend to set up tents and tables for the public to eat free Iftar meal every night of Ramadan.

Can Muslims be exempted from fasting?

Children, the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant or menstruating and those travelling are exempted from observing the fast. 

If an adult is in good health and decides not to observe fast in any particular day of the month, it is considered highly sinful and that the the non-observer must face consequences by fasting a significantly higher number of days after the month of Ramadan has ended. 

The only thing requires a person to make up the fasting day in addition to the kaffaarah is if a person has sexual intercourse, irrespective of whether ejaculation takes place or not. This is the opinion of the majority of the scholars based on hadith Abu Hurairah (r.a) collected by both Bukhari and Muslim. The kaffaarah in respect to the one who has copulated with one’s spouse is to emancipate (set free) a slave, if she or he has one. If not, then two consecutive months of fasting must be done. If fasting two consecutive months is detrimental to one’s health then he or she is required to feed sixty needy people.

What are some Ramadan traditions?

Typically, the beginning of the month of Ramadan is welcomed with greetings such as “Ramadan Mubarak!” another hallmark is the nightly prayer at the mosque called “Taraweeh” (Muslim males mainly attend). 

Increasingly common are Ramadan food stores that offer pricey meals from sunset to dawn, critics say the holy month is increasing becoming commercialised. Scholars are also disturbed by the proliferation of evening television shows during Ramadan. In some countries live game shows give away gifts promoting their sponsors and many programmes rake in millions of dollars in advertisement. 

How long does it last?

Ramadan lasts for one complete moon cycle, which is usually 29 or 30 days. The moon sighting determines the duration. Nowadays, astronomical calculations have started taking precedence over the age-old tradition of moon sighting by the naked eye to determine the dates. The exact date is confirmed by a moon-sighting committee in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Makkah is considered the holiest city in Islam. Not only was it the birthplace of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), but also the location where Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had his first revelation of the Quran. Because of this, the most of the Islamic world follow Saudi Arabia’s announcement.

Isn’t fasting dangerous?

While there is no danger to healthy people who fast during Ramadan, many people still feel sluggish without regular food. Research has, not surprisingly, also linked the lack of food and water to increased irritability, changes in mood, and a lack of concentration, individuals may feel headachy, light-headed and lethargic. If done right, Ramadan can have some positive health benefits. Advice from NHS is here.

How the end of Ramadan is marked?

The end of Ramadan is marked by intense worship as observers seek to have their prayers answered during “Laylat al-Qadr” or “the Night of Destiny.” It is on this night, which falls during the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that Muslims believe that Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and revealed the first versus of the Quran. 

”The month of Ramadan (is that) in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for the people and the clear proof for guidance and criterion. So whoever sights (the new moon of) the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and doesn’t intend for you hardship and wants for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that (to) which He has guided you: and perhaps you will be grateful.”
                                                                                            Surah Al-Baqarah 2:185

Some devout muslims go into reclusion during those final days, spending all of their time in the mosque.

The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a holiday called Eid al-Fitr. Muslims attend early morning prayers and families often visit each other, gather together and eat throughout the day. Children often receive new cloths, gifts and cash.  


I hope my article has given you a basic understanding and appreciation of the holy month of Ramadan, why not learn more by clicking here and here and googling it :).

Nazrul Hoque – 01 June 2018