If you pay close attention to the news, you know that it’s the first Friday of Ramadan, which has plenty of people asking: Why is it such a big deal? It’s a concept not easily understood unless you practice a devout religion yourself.
Ramadan is a full 30-day cycle that began Wednesday, June 17, and will go until Friday July 17. In short, it can be described as a holy month of sacrifice and worship for the Muslim people, and it’s by far the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar.
On the surface, Ramadan is viewed as a 30-day cycle in which Muslims do not eat or drink until sundown. Once the sun goes down and evening prayers have finished, they can eat, drink, and smoke to their heart’s content. In extremely devout places like Qatar or Bahrain, food is not sold until sundown and alcohol is forbidden until Ramadan ends.
Many people use this time to give up a bad habit, kind of like Lent in the Catholic church. For example, a large number of Muslims decide to sell their wine and alcohol storage in an effort to begin a new life. Others will rid themselves of pipes, cigarettes, and cigars in a first step to giving up tobacco.
Why is it such a big deal to the Muslim people? It all comes down to their devout faith. It’s a time to show Allah, the Muslim God, that they are entirely devoted to him, and no worldly pleasures will come before him. They strongly believe that this practice will strengthen their faith and increase blessings from their god.
They offset this faith by spending the day in the mosque, worshipping and praying to their god. You’ll have a hard time finding an empty or even half-filled mosque during this time of year as millions flock to their churches. This is a pretty impressive feat for some mosques, since Masjid al-Haram in Mecca can house four million people.
To be honest, Ramadan is a much more serious holiday in Israel than it is in other countries. Many places, such as China, believe that it is an unnecessary ritual, and they have even taken steps to ban fasting among the Chinese people.
You’ll also find while walking United States streets that several Muslim people choose not to engage in this tradition in the fullest. They will opt to fast for shorter times, or not at all. This is largely a result of the assimilation of Muslim into the predominantly Christian culture of America.
Many also question the health risks associated with this traditional month. It seems that going approximately 16 hours a day without food would be extremely harmful to their health.
However, though dehydration and other effects can occur from the fast, it’s not nearly as bad as it seems. In fact, Muslims probably eat more during Ramadan than they do any other time of the year. The women rise early to make a huge, nutritious breakfast with enough carbs and nutrients to get them through the day. Each person also drinks a significant amount of water before the sun rises to help prevent dehydration.
Once the sun disappears and the evening prayers have been said, the food comes out once again, and they spend the better part of the next two hours enjoying filling and delicious delicacies to keep them happy and well fed.
On this first Friday of Ramadan, it should become just a little bit clearer why it is such a big deal for the Muslim community to practice Ramadan.
[Image via the Daily Mail]