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Ramadan: Lessons and Traditions

June 23, 2014

By Munzoor Shaikh

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan is a very special Muslim holiday, which we observe by fasting from dawn until sunset for a month. This year, the holiday begins on June 28 and ends on July 28. Even if you don’t observe Ramadan, there are lessons and traditions that your family can learn and practice throughout the year.

The Purpose
During Ramadan, Muslims fast to improve self-restraint and increase awareness. For example, many of us have snacks, coffee, or even full meals without being hungry or thirsty. During the fast, we see why we feel the urge to eat or drink beyond our physical needs so we can transition to a higher level of emotional and spiritual awareness.

In the middle of a fasting day when we feel hungry, we turn to that moment of awareness and remember our blessings. Often taking that moment’s pause can instantly resolve the hunger and nourish us from a spiritual perspective. It also helps us feel connected to other people around the world who are hungry or thirsty simply because they do not have access to food and water.

Fasting Rules
The formal rules of fasting are simple. Muslims cannot eat, drink, or inject anything into their bodies (like eye drops, etc.) from dawn until sunset for the duration of the month. At sunset, Muslims usually break fast with some water and dates. At night, from sunset until the next dawn, Muslims can resume all non-fasting activities as usual. Exceptions are made for those who are ill, pregnant, or prohibited by their doctor for any reason, as Islamic belief asserts that our bodies have a right over us and we must give our bodies that due right when necessary.

Celebrate and Respect
It might not seem like it, but most Muslim families find Ramadan to be a time of celebration and fun! How can the process of not eating and drinking be fun? During Ramadan, families and friends make a concerted effort to spend time together. Since there is no food to distract us, we have true quality time together, sharing our thoughts and emotions and forming a deeper connection. Families also break the fast with dinner or have pre-dawn meals together at 3:00 am! Additionally, there are nightly prayers that families and friends like to observe together. Muslim families share most meals together during this month.

You and your children can respect fasting Muslims by asking them about their experience as they fast. Some find it respectful not to eat or drink in front of fasting Muslims, but this is not a hard and fast rule.

Feel free to join the celebration! Break the fast with a Muslim friend at sunset one day or join them in fasting for a day or two. You could even fast for an afternoon to sample the experience.

The most important things for all people to learn, regardless of religion, are to celebrate life together, become more aware of our actions surrounding food and drink, and connect more deeply with others.

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