Assalamu Alaikum and Ramadan Mubarak! The ninth month in the Islamic calendar is here, which marks the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In our multi-cultural environment where all forms of diversity, religion and races are respected and celebrated, it is important to introduce, teach and help children understand the traditions and celebrations. After all, the annual Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar and fasting rituals aren’t all there is to Ramadan!
As Muslims all over the world begin their religious observances, now’s a better time than ever to educate your kids (and maybe even learn a thing or two!) about this sacred month. Let’s begin.
What is Ramadan?
The most sacred month of the year according to Islamic culture, Muslims observe Ramadan by fasting and praying, to become closer to God. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, and is meant to cultivate self-discipline, to detach from worldly pleasures, and to cleanse the soul by freeing it of impurities.
The fasting that Muslims undertake goes beyond abstaining from food and drink. (BTW, taking a single sip of water or even a puff of a cigarette is considered enough to invalidate the fast!). To purify the soul, Muslims observe abstinence from pleasure, bad habits, negative thoughts and behaviour.
Beyond fasting, Ramadan is also a time of joy, to bond with the family and give back to charity and those in need.
How do Muslims fast?
Fasting commences during sunlight hours. To prepare their bodies for the fasting ahead, Muslims consume a pre-dawn meal, known as sahur. The most anticipated time of day happens at dusk – the fast is broken with iftar, a hearty meal that typically starts out with a few sips of water and dates. This daily meal, which comes after a sunset prayer, is shared with family and friends.
There are a few exemptions to fasting: women who are pregnant, on their period or breastfeeding, elderly, those who are sick, and children who have yet to reach puberty.
Well-wishes during Ramadan
There are a couple of Ramadan greetings you can exchange, such as “Ramadan Kareem”, which translates to “Have a generous Ramadan”, or “Ramadan Mubarak”, which roughly means, “Blessed Ramadan”. On Eid-al-fitre (the last day of Ramadan), the greeting changes to “Eid Mubarak”.
What happens at the end of Ramadan?
The most important day of Ramadan takes place during the last 10 days. It is known as Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Power. Muslims believe that the day was when the first Quran verses were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan culminates in Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa, which is celebrated after the last break fast of the month. It marks the start of a new month, Syawal. During the celebrations, families and friends gather to visit their loved ones, and enjoy delicious meals. If you’re invited to partake in this joyous occasion, dates, sweets or fresh-cut flowers will make welcome gifts.
What’s the difference between Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji?
While Hari Raya Puasa is a day for celebrating the end of the fasting month, Hari Raya Haji, which occurs usually about three months later, marks the end of the annual Islamic pilgrimage (Hajj) that Muslims make to Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims. It is also widely referred to as ‘the day of sacrifice’, as Muslims believe that it was on this day that Prophet Ibrahim almost sacrificed his son as an act of obedience and reverence to God.