For nearly two billion people, Sunday marked the beginning of the year’s holiest month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims everywhere explore and test their faith by fasting.
The festival is a celebration of the moment when the prophet Muhammad was told he would be God’s messenger, and the word of Allah was revealed to him, creating what we know now as the Qur’an.
The month of Ramadan lasts 30 days and is a time of purity and contemplation. Crucial to this is the fast, or sawm. From sunrise to sunset, every Muslim is expected to refrain from letting anything pass their lips — even drinking water and chewing gum is forbidden. There is a morning meal, called the suhoor before dawn; at dusk, the fast is broken with the iftar.
The idea is to purify your soul by detaching from material pleasures and coming closer to Allah. It is also a chance to reflect on those less fortunate than you. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims will celebrate the festival of Eid al-Fitr.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam (the five core beliefs that provide the foundation of the whole religion). The others are prayer; giving to charity; making a pilgrimage to Mecca, and a sincere faith in Allah.
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In this 10-minute documentary by Al Jazeera, a young Muslim man fasts for his first-ever Ramadan and asks friends and family for advice.
- As a class, list all of the words you associate with the word “Ramadan”. Discuss any themes or patterns which emerge.
- Choose one of the other five pillars of Islam, and write a short explanation of what it involves and why it is important to Muslims.
- This year, Ramadan falls during exam season in the UK. As a class, debate whether fasting students should be allowed special treatment.