Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Assalam alaikum (Peace be on you)
Today marks the first day of the month of fasting for Muslims known as Ramadan. From dawn until sunset, Muslims around the world will keep from eating and drinking but also will keep all of their senses and their manners focused on good things. So, not only do we keep away from sodas, coffee and burgers but also lying, gossiping and cursing, either from our mouths or the mouths of others. No smoking or kissing, either. For all of the things we should keep away from, there are many things we are encouraged to do more of. Be more generous of our time, money and forgiveness. Spend more time with friends and family. Fasting naturally slows you down a bit, especially the first week or so as your body gets used to it again. So we enjoy a more relaxed pace to help us focus more on becoming better people. We're encouraged to spend more time reading the Quran and quietly reflecting on spiritual matters. So, during this month, my family and I will go to the masjid/mosque as many nights as we can to join others in reading a section of the Quran (broken down into 30 parts for the 30 days of Ramadan) and breaking our fast with a shared iftar (evening meal). But we are also meant to continue in our regular activities, so we will begin our homeschooling once again, although, I'll probably wait a few more days for the kids to get used to fasting again. M, S, and Z all fasted last year and will again this year.
FYI: Who fasts? Muslims over the age of 9 (younger kids sometimes want to fast like their big brothers or sisters so they do mini "fasts", like no morning snack but regular lunch time)- Those that are sick, pregnant, breastfeeding, elderly or are on a trip are not required to fast but all except the elderly and chronically ill are required to make up the days of fasting when they are able or give charity equal to each day of fasting to feed a poor person. (The same goes for women on their period. We're grouchy enough that time of month; no need to add to the grouchy factor.)
When do we fast? During the lunar month of Ramadan, we wake up early and eat a meal (sahoor) before dawn, do our morning prayers and, depending on work schedules and time of year, go back to sleep for a few hours. We break our fast about 20 min. after sunset with an evening meal (iftar). This time of year that means from about 4 a.m. until about 8:30 p.m. The lunar calendar is shorter than the solar/Gregorian calendar by 11 days, so the month of Ramadan falls at a slightly different time each year. This makes fasting more equitable for everyone. No one has Ramadan every year in the hottest, longest days, while those living in the other hemisphere celebrate in the coldest, shortest days. It wouldn't be very fair Ramadan was say every January and Muslims in North America only had to fast during winter, while those in Australia had to fast during summer. This way we take turns.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in a comment and I'll respond to them in another post.