Ramadan is considered as one of the holiest months of the year for Muslims.
It is the month in which fasting is obligatory on every Muslim except those exempted from the fasting, from dawn to sunset as espoused in the teachings of the holy Quran.
The faithful fast between 11 to 16 hours daily depending on the time of year for a period of 29-30 days as a means of drawing closer to Allah and to nurture self-control, gratitude, and compassion for the less fortunate.
Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar, which is based on a 12-month lunar year of approximately 354 days.
Because the lunar year is eleven days shorter than the solar year, each lunar month moves eleven days earlier each year and it takes 33 solar years for the lunar months to complete a full cycle and return to the same season.
The month, traditionally starts and ends based on the sighting of the new moon. This has a large impact on how people experience Ramadan from year to year.
Since the new moon isn’t totally visible in the night sky, Muslims traditionally wait to start fasting until the small sliver of crescent moon becomes visible.
As stated by the Prophet Mohammed (Saw), one must not start fasting until you see the crescent.
Today, however, there is precise scientific calculations that inform Muslims exactly when the new moon begins, and they don’t need to wait until someone spots a tiny crescent in the sky, Ghana News Agency uncovered.
The Holy Quran Chapter 2 verse 183, states that, “O you who believe, Siyam (fasting) is prescribed onto you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may have piety (fear of Allah)”.
And in an authentic hadith of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW), he is reported to have said that “Islam is built on five pillars and one of them is the obligatory fast in the month of Ramadan”.
“Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the testimony of faith (Shahada), prayer (Salat), charitable giving (Zakat), and making a pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).
What to do during Ramadan
“All Muslims are required to take part every year, though there are special dispensations for those who are ill, pregnant or nursing, menstruating, or traveling, and for young children and the elderly”.
The fast of Ramadan entails forgoing food and drink, and if married, abstaining from sex during the day. For Muslims, Ramadan is a time to train themselves both physically and spiritually by avoiding any negative acts such as gossiping, backbiting, lying or arguing.
Muslims welcome Ramadan as an opportunity for self-reflection, and spiritual improvement, and to grow in moral excellence. Ramadan is also a highly social time as Muslims invite each other to break their fast together and meet for prayers at the mosque.
Fasting in Islam is not just physiologically rigorous, but very demanding in terms of moral discipline. While recognizing the extraordinary physical endeavour that is exerted in Ramadan, the Prophet (PBUH) conveyed the futility of such effort in the absence of righteousness stating.
“Many are the people who fast but gain nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst; and many are those who stand praying all night but gain nothing except sleeplessness.”
Fasting is profitable in many ways but the immediate return on investment is the development of empathy and social responsibility. By experiencing thirst and hunger, one can empathize with people who lack food and water or are malnourished.
The fasting person is made to realize the need to go beyond selfish concerns, participate in social duties, and sacrifice in support of humanitarian causes. Abstinence inculcates appreciation and gratitude for God’s blessings, which in turn promotes the values of the common good and sharing. This paves the way for compassion and generosity, making charity a satisfying experience
Significance of Fasting
Imam Hassan Osman, Greater Accra Regional Imam, Bissa Community in an interview with the Ghana News Agency said while considering the religious dimensions of Ramadan, fasting also has health functions of rejuvenating the human body, which has been supported by scientific research.
He said studies have shown that fasting aids in fighting weight gain, controlling inflammation, improving heart and brain health, enhancing metabolism, treating cancer, and increasing longevity, among other benefits.
But there are certain health conditions including common sickness when fasting is not advisable.
“Islam offers exception to sick people by allowing them to postpone their fasting. Pregnant and nursing women, travelers and those experiencing menstruation and post-natal bleeding, are also exempted from fasting. They all must, however, compensate by fasting when they regain their health. As for the aged, it is sufficient for them to donate a meal since they are not expected to be able to fast even in the future,” he said.
He said all the months are holy months, but Ramadan is seen as the holiest and one must prepare spiritually to start the fast. A Muslim must ask for forgiveness from Almighty Allah for the evil that they commit before engaging in Ramadan.
Imam Osman also noted that the month of Ramadan as revealed in the Holy Quran, is a guidance for the people, so Muslims must read and memorize more of the Quran during the period.
“Ramadan comes with a lot of benefits to the fasting Muslim with faith and hope for reward from Allah alone as stated by the Prophet (SAW), then his or her spiritual growth is enhanced through forgiveness of all previous sins by Allah.”
He said the last 10 nights of Ramadan was important to the Muslim, as it was considered the most blessed nights of Ramadan, so in order not to miss the nights, he advised Muslims to hold vigils in prayer, Qur’anic recitation, and contemplation during all the ten nights.
Highlighting the impact of easing of COVID-19 restrictions on this years Ramadan, Imam Osman expressed appreciation to the government for the timely intervention.
He said Ramadan is associated with a lot of congregational activities, including; iftar, tefsir, taraweeh among others and COVID-19 affected such practices, but now with the restrictions being eased it would help a lot of Muslims engage in these acts of worship to gain more reward and blessings.
The Imam urged Muslims to learn to tolerate each other and promote peace during this Holy period.
Hajia Mariama Otoo was hopeful she would strive to attain the God consciousness and piety that would grant her the blessings of Allah during this Ramadan.
She said it was important for Muslims to develop their spiritual relationship with Allah, by abstaining from all that has been forbidden and doing what is right.
“As Muslims Fast, they must not forget about their environment. They must maintain good hygiene, eat balanced foods, and avoid filth and keeping bad company.”
Hajia Otoo said the COVID-19 pandemic, although had a great impact on the holy month in the past two years, Muslims were however optimistic that this year, they would be able to engage in all the spiritual activities that Ramadan comes with, in order to derive the full benefits of it, by the will of Allah.
She advised that, even though the COVID-19 restrictions had been eased at a time when Ramadan which also involves a lot of congregational activities was near, Muslims must not lose sight of the remnants of COVID-19 and observe all the protocols in the mosques to the best of their ability.
Speaking on the celebrations of Eid al-Fitr or the “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast” after the 30 days fast, Sheikh Ahmed AdjeI Adjetey said on the day, a special prayer and sermon are held in the morning of the day, followed by community celebrations usually in a park or large hall.
He said it was a day for merry making which no Muslim was supposed to be left out. Food is prepared by families and households and distributed in communities for all to have a feel of it.
“Food, games and presents for children are also important parts of the festivities, as friends and family spend the day socializing, eating and reuniting with old acquaintances.
This year, Ramadan, will start on April 3 and end on May 2, and Muslim across the globe would be expected to commence the annual fast immediately the crescent is sited.