For Canadan Muslims, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan will be coming to an end at the end of this week, followed by a three-day long holiday: Eid Al-Fitr (Holiday of ). This festive occasion, like other holidays, starts with a morning prayer, followed by visiting family and friends, and exchanging food, presents, and good company. But what are we celebrating?
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is commonly known as the month of fasting, because Muslims across the world fast each day of the month. The month’s precise start and end dates are confirmed by moonsight: each month starts with a crescent moon.
While fasting is an important part of the Islamic faith, it is not a unique act of worship to Muslims. In fact, Muslims understand this obligation follows other Abrahamic faiths:
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint (Quran: Chapter 2, Verse 183)
What may be unique to Islam, however, is what fasting looks like: no food, drink, or intimacy from dawn to sunset. Learning self-restraint, one of the reasons Muslims fast, is related to piety, righteousness, being conscious of God, and guarding oneself from harm. There are known medical benefits to fasting like detoxification of the body and organs, restoring blood sugar balance and cellular rejuvenation.
Ramadan is a time of self- discipline and practicing patience, humility, empathy and generosity for the less fortunate, and compassion of shared values that unite us all. But there is more to Ramadan than fasting. Ramadan is also a time of increased prayer, charity, and spiritual reflection. It is a month filled with repentance and spiritual cleansing. We develop a personal and sincere connection with our Creator by making a covenant of suppressing our desires and controlling our emotions. We develop sufficient strength in character to meet the challenges of pursuing peace, prosperity and justice for our community and humanity at large in the coming year.