Ramadan: The basic rundown about Islam’s holiest month

How Ramadan is celebrated


Senior Haniah Hamza and her group of friends during an Eid-al Fitr celebration. Hamza is the second person in the row. (Photo courtesy of Haniah Hamza)

You might have heard the phrases, “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Eid Mubarak” a few times in your life. Every year, Muslims around the world come to celebrate Ramadan. Ramadan, also commonly called Ramazan, is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is also considered to be one of the holiest months of the year. During this time, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. This means they eat before their fasting starts, and eat after their fasting ends.

However, when it comes to Ramadan, many people outside Muslim countries don’t understand or don’t know what the month is about. 

Although some know Ramadan to mostly be about fasting, it’s also a period of time where Muslims work to self-reflect. It is a test of self-restraint, as well as a time to improve yourself by being kinder and abstaining from certain habits, such as lying or gossiping. Additionally, Ramadan is a time to renew one’s faith and relationship with Allah. Furthermore, not everyone needs to fast; in fact, children, pregnant women, the elderly and those who are physically or mentally ill can be exempted from fasting. 

“We believe it’s a special time to do good deeds, and you have the chance to wipe the slate clean for the year. We fast because we live such privileged lives that we don’t think about what it’s like to live without the simplest needs like food and water,” OPHS senior Haniah Hamza said. 

According to Met Museum, the reason why people fast during this holiday is because fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. These pillars are the basic beliefs and practices in Islam, with fasting being the fourth pillar, “sawm.” Fasting is also a way for others to understand the suffering of those who are disadvantaged. 

Another characteristic of Ramadan is that the time it is celebrated shifts every year since it is based on the lunar calendar. The Islamic calendar goes back about 11 days every year. Therefore, Muslims must adapt with the seasons and time period of the month Ramadan lands on. 

According to the Islamic Networks Group, every day of Ramadan starts with the entire family waking up in the early morning (around 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.) before dawn so they can eat breakfast. This meal is called “suhoor.” After finishing their meals, the family completes “fajr,” the morning prayer. When the sun sets, Muslims break their fast with “iftar.” Most families will eat dates and drink water, and then will proceed to do “maghrib,” sunset prayers, before they eat. In some cases, families and friends may break their fast together. 

“My mom and I will sit down and spend a whole day making short eats for the full 30 days and stuffing almonds in dates. We’ve done it since I was a little kid so it’s something special to me,” Hamza said. 

After the meals, families can go to a mosque to participate in “taraweeh,” a special Ramadan prayer. Other activities Muslims do during this month include feeding the needy and other general acts of kindness, such as donating money to the less fortunate. 

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid-al Fitr. Eid-al Fitr is celebrated religiously during the first day of the new month. However, in Muslim countries a three day vacation is given for the holiday.

“It’s a gigantic celebration where we essentially go to the houses of every person you know and eat your weight in food and sweets,” Hamza said. 

During this time, families celebrate together and have big meals. It is to celebrate the endurance people went through for the entire month of Ramadan. People wear new clothes, and presents are given out. Older relatives usually give children money. During Eid, you’ll probably hear people say the phrase “Eid Mubarak” to wish each other a good celebration. 

“Ramadan is a really important time for me. It’s one of the few big holidays we have as Muslims,” Hamza said. 

Feel free to try observe Ramadan and try to join your Muslim friends in fasting as well, or simply try getting involved in the other festivities. Make sure to wish Muslims a blessed Eid-al Fitr this year!