Published: 29 May 2017

Ramadan 2017

Ramadan is one of the major times in the Islamic Calendar and can be compared to the Catholic version of Lent. Many of our students are Muslim and will chose to observe the laws of Ramadan. We will assist them in a number of ways. Please remember that just as some Catholics may observe Lent in a very conservative manner, so too, do Muslims, who depending on their commitment to their faith make their own decisions regarding fasting, almsgiving and prayer, to name a few.

It is important that all of our students are aware of how important this time is for our Muslim Students.

Islam (Arabic for "submission") is a monotheistic faith based on revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad in 7th-century Saudi Arabia. It is currently the second-largest religion in the world, with about 1.6 billion followers.

Ramadan is not a holy day to Muslims, but a holy month. It is the ninth month of the Islamic year, in which "the Quran was sent down as a guidance for the people" {1}. Ramadan is similar to the Jewish Yom Kippur in that both constitute a period of atonement; Ramadan, however, is seen less as atonement and more as an obedient response to a command from Allah. {2}

During Ramadan, those who are able must abstain from food and drink (including water), evil thoughts and deeds, and sexual intercourse from dawn until dusk for the entire month. Because the holiday cycles through the solar year, this fast can be much more challenging in some years than others. When Ramadan falls in the summer season, the days of fasting are longer and it is a greater hardship to do without water.

Non-Muslims in Islamic countries during Ramadan must be careful not to eat, drink, or smoke in the presence of Muslims during the daytime hours of fasting, as the law requires adherence to the fast in public. The traditional greeting during Ramadan is "Ramadan Mubarak" ("May God give you a blessed month") and the reply is "Ramadan Karim" ("May God give you a generous month"). {3}

Fasting during Ramadan

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The fast (sawm) begins at dawn and ends at sunset. In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking, Muslims also increase restraint, such as abstaining from sexual relations and generally sinful speech and behavior.

The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat).

It becomes compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. Exemptions to fasting are travel, menstruation, illness, older age, pregnancy, and breast-feeding. However, many Muslims with medical conditions insist on fasting to satisfy their spiritual needs, and healthcare professionals must work with their patients to reach common ground. Professionals should closely monitor individuals who decide to persist with fasting.

While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavour to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life. Those who are unable to fast are obliged to make up for it. According to the Quran, those ill or traveling (musaafir) are exempt from obligation, but still must make up the days missed.

 Ramadan is One and a half billion people turn to the Qur'an as their scripture, and no wonder: The beauty and wisdom that fill its pages create a powerful draw. How fortunate we are to live in a time when Muslims and non-Muslims alike can partake of this inspiration!

Jamal Rahman describes it as "a wellspring of guidance, discernment, remembrance, and mercy," brimming over with spiritual direction and insights for daily life. He agrees with Rumi, the great Sufi mystic, who said: "The Quran is like a shy bride. Do not approach her directly. Approach her through her friends."

Let us pray for our Muslim Students, their Families and their Friends during this Holy Time and encourage all students to be aware that a number of students within our community will be undertaking Ramadan. This includes the establishment of areas for prayer where the boys and the girls have their own separate spaces.