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Posted: May 15, 2018

5 things you should know about Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting


By Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Throughout the holy month of Ramadan, observers fast from sunrise to sunset and partake in nightly feasts.

>> Read more trending news

Here are five things to know about Islam’s sacred month:

What is Ramadan?

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
The Islamic Center of America mosque in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the holy month of fasting, spiritual reflection and prayer for Muslims.

It is believed to be the month in which the Prophet Muhammad revealed the holy book — Quran — to Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” itself is taken from the Arabic word, “ramad,” an adjective describing something scorchingly dry or intensely heated by the sun.

When is Ramadan?

Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images
Indonesian Muslims hold a Rukyatul Hilal to see the new crescent moon that determines the end of Ramadan.

The Islamic calendar is based on the moon’s cycle and not the sun’s (what the Western world uses), so the dates vary year to year.

By the Gregorian solar calendar, Ramadan is 10 to 12 days earlier every year.

In 2018, Ramadan begins on May 15 and last through June 14.

>> Read more trending news 

To determine when exactly the holy month will begin, Muslim-majority countries look to local moon sighters, according to Al Jazeera.

The lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon on the 29th night of each month. If the moon is not visible, the month will last 30 days.

What do Muslims do during Ramadan and why?

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Muslim women gather for a special Eid ul-Fitr morning prayer at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California.

Ramadan is known as the holy month of fasting, with Muslims abstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.

Fasting during the holiday is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with the daily prayer, declaration of faith, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

In 2016, according to Al Jazeera, fasting hours around the globe ranged between 11 and 22 hours and in the US, 16 to 18 hours.

The fast is intended to remind Muslims of the suffering of those less fortunate and bring believers closer to God (Allah, in Arabic). 

During the month, Muslims also abstain from habits such as smoking, caffeine, sex and gossip; this is seen as a way to both physically and spiritually purify oneself while practicing self-restraint.

Here’s what a day of fasting during Ramadan is like:

  • Muslims have a predawn meal called the “suhoor.”
  • Then, they fast all day until sunset.
  • At sunset, Muslims break their fast with a sip of water and some dates, the way they believe the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast more than a thousand years ago.
  • After sunset prayers, they gather at event halls, mosques or at home with family and friends in a large feast called “iftar."

How is the end of Ramadan celebrated?

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
A girl blows bubbles during an Eid celebration in London, England.

Toward the end of the month, Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr or “the Night of Power/Destiny” — a day observers believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad to reveal the Quran’s first verses.

On this night, which falls on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, Muslims practice intense worship as they pray for answers and seek forgiveness for any sins.

To mark the end of Ramadan, determined by the sighting of the moon on the 29th, a 3-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr brings families and friends together in early morning prayers followed by picnics, feasts and fun.

Does every Muslim fast during Ramadan?

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Seventeen months -old Pakistani Muslim Ali Khaja gives his hat to his grandfather Ahsan Khaja before for the special 2011 Eid ul-Fitr morning prayer in Los Angeles, California.

According to most interpreters of the Quran, children, the elderly, the ill, pregnant women, women who are nursing or menstruating, and travelers are exempt from fasting.

Some interpreters also consider intense hunger and thirst as well as compulsion (someone threatening another to do something) exceptions.

But as an entirety, whether Muslims fast or not often depends on their ethnicity and country.

Many Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, for example, observe the monthlong fast during Ramadan, according to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center.

In fact, in Saudi Arabia, Muslims and non-Muslims can be fined or jailed for eating in public during the day, according to the Associated Press.

But in the United States and in Europe, many Muslims are accepting of non-observers.


Related

Muslims in America, by the numbers

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. In fact, if current trends continue, Muslims will surpass Christians as the world’s largest religious group in the second half of this century, according to the Pew Research Center.

As of 2010, there were an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, making up the majority of the population in 49 countries.

» RELATED: 5 things you should know about Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting 

And only 0.2 percent of the global Muslim population reportedly lived in North America.

In the U.S., the latest Pew numbers from 2015 show the country is home to an estimated 3.3 million Muslims of all ages — about 1 percent of the total U.S. population.

>> Read more trending news 

But by 2050, Pew researchers estimate Islam will supplant Judaism as the second-most popular religion in the U.S. with Muslims ultimately making up 2.1 percent of the future population.

Why is the group growing so fast?

According to researchers, it’s primarily about simple demographics.

» RELATED: Mahershala Ali makes history as first Muslim to win an Academy Award 

Muslim women on average have more children than women of the seven other major religious groups analyzed in Pew’s global landscape study.

Between 2010 and 2015, 31 percent of all babies born around the world were born to Muslims.

Muslims also have the youngest average age of all the major religious groups, Pew researches noted. In 2015, the median age of Muslims around the globe was 24 whereas the median age of non-Muslims was 32.

Those factors coupled together have led to the population projections in the second half of this century.

» RELATED: 5 inspiring quotes from iconic Muslim women to celebrate #MuslimWomensDay 

How many Muslim immigrants have come to the U.S.?

Between 1992 and 2012, approximately 1.7 million Muslims entered the U.S. as legal permanent residents, jumping from about 50,000 in 1992 to 100,000 in 2012, Pew research found.

The data shows most Muslims that immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1990s came from countries in Asia and the Pacific or Middle East/North Africa.

By 2012, most Muslim immigrants to the U.S. came from Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh and Iraq.

» RELATED: Photos of famous Muslim Americans 

Where do Muslims in America live?

The state-by-state map above shows the percentage of adult populations identifying as Muslims, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study.

Of all adult populations in the 50 states and District of Columbia, New Jersey reported the highest percentage of Muslim residents at 3 percent.

Data for the report came from telephone interviews with more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states.

More information about Muslims in America at Pew Research Center.

  5 things you should know about Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting
  Photos: Famous American Muslims

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