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Introduction to the holy month of Ramadan

Co-authored by Lehua McAllister and Hasan Khan

The holy month of Ramadan commemorates the first revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad. It is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting and spiritual renewal. From dawn to sunset, all Muslim men, women, and post pubescent/ young adults refrain from eating, drinking, and intimate relationships*. Cycling on the lunar calendar, Ramadan moves back in the solar calendar ten days every year. This is the first year in 10 years that Ramadan will take place during the academic school year. It begins on May 6 and will end June 4 or 5 (subject to the lunar calculations).

A typical Ramadan day starts before sunrise which could be as early as 3 am. Muslims wake up to eat their pre-dawn meal or suhoor and afterwards, they pray Fajr, the first of their five daily prayers. Given an individual’s schedule one may go back to sleep or spend time reciting the Qur’an. During the daylight hours, Muslims will engage in their normal daily activities—for students here at Northwestern that would include class, club meetings, studying, only bypassing their normal morning coffee and all other food and drink throughout the day. Fasting ends at sunset which can be as late as 8:25 pm this year when people have their iftar or breaking of the fast. Traditionally, Muslims break their fast by first consuming dates, similarly to the way the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast. Through fasting Muslims develop a deeper compassion for those less fortunate and recognize their own blessings from God.

Often times, non-Muslims, like myself may focus solely on the challenge fasting from both food and drink for the nearly 16-17 hours presents. However, for Muslim students Ramadan goes beyond fasting. As Ahmad Keshk, a junior in political science explains, ”While we may have to prepare ourselves physically to fast, the holy month requires just as much mental and spiritual preparation.” Similarly, first year Neuroscience major, Ayesha Lat describes, it is a practice of “self-control” an exercise of “strengthening your mind and spirit, while also becoming closer to God.”

Fasting serves as only one component of Ramadan. Please stay tuned to learn more about the holy month of Ramadan as this is the first installment of a 4-part series.

*There is an exemption from fasting for those whose health will be impacted, menstruating women, and travelers. All of them will make up for missed days later in the year, if possible.


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