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Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar, and it is regarded as an incredibly special and holy time for Muslims. During this month, Muslims observe 29 or 30 days of fasting depending on the lunar calendar. This is because Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new moon, hence why it falls 10 to 11 days earlier each year. This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on 12th of April. On this day, Muslims will contact and greet each other by saying Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem which means have a blessed and generous month of Ramadan. It is usually said at the beginning of Ramadan but can be said throughout the month.
Muslims are encouraged to observe Ramadan as a time of self-reflection and being thankful for what they have. It often unites families and communities who celebrate together as they observe Ramadan together. For many, Ramadan is about a time to think of those less fortunate than themselves and many use this time to donate to charity. Others use the month as a time to get closer to God and devote more time in their day in worship and prayer.
The fast itself comprises of Muslims observing a 16 hour long fast. During the fast, nothing must pass the lips. This includes no food or water (including no smoking). The fasts begin at sunrise, also known as suhoor. This year, this will fall around 4:30am at the beginning of Ramadan, and 3:30am at the end of Ramadan. Some people choose to sleep and not wake up in the middle of the night to eat, however it is common tradition for many Muslims to wake up in the middle of the night and make sure they have plenty of food and water to prepare them for the day ahead (personally I find this the hardest!). The fasts are then be broken at sunset, also known as iftaari, which is around 8pm at the beginning of Ramadan and 9pm at the end of Ramadan. As you can imagine, the fasts get harder as the days get longer (and the heat definitely plays a part in the challenge!) Muslims break their fasts traditionally with dates and water, and enjoy a nice meal with the family.
There is flexibility with fasting and therefore those who are pregnant or have illnesses are exempt. However, fasting is encouraged amongst those who are able to as it is seen and proven to have health benefits for the human body. Many outside the Muslim faith also observe fasting, such as intermittent fasting, which helps reduce body fat and Insulin resistance, as well as lowering risks for illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and decreasing heart disease.
Ramadan for me is definitely a time of self-reflection and gratitude. I tend to struggle with no eating and drinking and thus when I do complete my fasts, I am really able to feel gratitude for such basic privileges. It reminds me to never overindulge and keep a balance to stay healthy and well and share what I have with the people around me.
To all those celebrating Ramadan, we wish you a happy and joyous Ramadan. Ramadan Mubarak!
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