Ramadan Begins Tonight – 5 Things You Should Know About Ramadan
People generally know that Ramadan is a month out of the year when Muslims fast every day during the daytime. But there is a lot more to the holiday then just that. Here are five things that you probably didn’t know about Ramada. And be sure and tell anyone you know who is fasting to have a Ramadan Kareem (have a generous Ramadan) or Ramadan Mubarak (have a blessed Ramadan).
1 — It goes according to the lunar cycle. So the month of Ramadan begins with the new moon. Just like with Jewish holidays, it officially begins at night, but the fasting is just during the day time. Since it is a month on the Lunar calendar it always coincides with a full month on the Hebrew calendar. This year the month of Ramadan coincides with the Hebrew month of Iyar.
Jews celebrate the first of the new month as well at sundown tonight. Technically (for religious reasons), this new moon holiday called “Rosh Hodesh” in Hebrew began Sunday night. This is because every other Rosh Hodesh during the year begins the last day of the previous month and last for two days.
So Ramadan always begins at the same time that Jews celebrate the Rosh Hodesh holiday. This year it happens to coincide with the same month when Israel celebrates its independence. The State of Israel observes its Independence Day on the Hebrew calendar. On the Solar calendar it occurred on May 15th. This year the holiday will be observed on Thursday April 15th.
2 – Ramadan comes out eleven days earlier each year. This is because the Lunar calendar is eleven days shorter than the Solar one. Judaism requires that its holidays fall in specific seasons: Passover must come in the spring and the Sukkot holiday marks the end of summer. So the first night of Passover always comes after the Spring Equinox – March 21st — and no later than around 30 days after that. The Sukkot holiday always falls within a few weeks before or after the Fall Equinox – September 21st.
For this reason the Tora required that an extra month be added before the month when Passover is celebrated should it arrive before the start of spring. Eventually a set calendar was established with an added leap month coming seven out of nineteen years.
But Islam requires no such connection between its holidays and the season. So its calendar has no leap years. This is why Ramadan falls in different times of the year. Every few years it falls a whole season earlier. Its cycle is roughly 33 years – every 33 years Ramadan begins on the same day on the Solar calendar, give or take a few.
3 – Yes Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk each day during the month of Ramadan and even abstain from tobacco if they smoke. But there are exceptions, of course. Pregnant women, women who just gave birth, the ill and young children are all exempt.
A family meal is traditionally held to mark the end of the fast. This is called Iftar. The meal usually begins by eating three dates. This is because the Prophet Mohamed had the custom of breaking his fast in this way, but this practice is not mandatory. The meal of Iftar is different in countries around the world.
4 – Muslims also say an extra prayer each day of Ramadan and give money to charity. Tarawih is the name of this extra prayer said at night. It is not, however, compulsory. The prayer is also known by many names and there are different traditions as to what is said.
Zakah is the giving of charity to fellow Muslims during the month of Ramadan. It is given to the Muslim Ummah (community) and is obligatory according to the Quran.
5 – Eid al-Fitr is the holiday celebrated the first day of the month following Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr has its own prayer which consists of two sections. It is usually performed in an open field or large hall. It may only be performed in a congregation.
The festival traditionally lasts for three days and is characterized by parties and different forms of celebration in different countries. People where nicer clothing and give out gifts.
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