Celebrating Ramadan

Lula Adam - 09 April 2021

This year, April 13 likely marks the beginning of Ramadan, one of the most sacred times of year in Islam. But what does Ramadan look like for our campus community?

How do you know when Ramadan starts?

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is lunar, meaning the start and end of the month are determined by the phases of the moon. This is why we don't know in advance the exact start and end of Ramadan.

Some communities wait to see the birth of the moon in their community while others go with what people are doing in other countries. Others yet use calculations. This year Ramadan is expected to start on April 13.

What does Ramadan signify?

For 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is your chance to fulfill one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith: fasting (sawm). (The other four pillars are testifying the oneness of God, giving alms, pilgrimage and completing the five daily prayers.)

Many of you may already know that adult Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset for the entire month. What you may not know is that they also abstain from sexual relations and smoking, too. You might see some of your Muslim friends sturggling during this month—so try to lend them a little support, understanding and compassion!

While fasting from food and drink, Muslims are encoruaged to appreciate the blessings that they have and to remember that many people around the world who go without. The temporary abstention of food is a reminder of the poverty and hunger that many experience on a regular basis. This is meant to encourage gratitude but also empathy for the plight of others.

And this is also why why many Muslims donate money and food at an increased rate during Ramadan. This might be a good time to ask for a favour from your Muslim friend. ;) (Just kidding.)

How else do you celebrate Ramadan?

Since Ramadan is a sacred month, acts of worship are recognized as more valuable, and Muslims try to increase activities such as praying, supplicating, giving to charity, and reading the Quran. You're also encouraged to develop yourself spiritually, emotionally and socially: This may mean building generosity and kindness and taking care of and others!

How can I support those observing Ramadan?

Traditionally Ramadan is a time for people to come together, particularly to break their fast (iftar)—unfortunately, this year, as we have seen with other celebrations like Chinese New Year, Diwali and Christmas, this is not possible for many Muslims due to COVID-19. Again compassion and understanding might be the only thing we can offer each other during these challenging times.

If you want to support a friend who is observing Ramadan, ask them how! If they are part of your safety bubble, you may be able to have iftar with them. If they aren't, you can still share a meal with them over Zoom. Like many other observances and holidays, Ramadan is about community, socializing and connection. (Just remember to keep your friends and community safe by abiding by all regulations.)

Ramadan is not a universal experience for everyone: Some people who are fasting don’t mind if you eat or drink in front of them while others might find it very challenging. When in doubt, just ask and be understanding of the answer!

Some Muslim think of Ramadan as an opportunity to reset their spiritual self. Some struggle with the fasting and the obligations. Others don't! But many look forward to its approach with happiness and anticipation—even if it is different this year.