For nearly two billion people, Thursday (23 April) 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.
- 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.
- Many religions include an element of fasting in order to feel closer to God. Find out more about the benefits of fasting (including how to do it safely) and write a short report answering the question: should everyone try fasting once a year?
- In a month’s time, Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Fitr. As a class, start planning an event to celebrate the holiday in your school.