After Easter, the world is now facing the next major religious event on the global calendar: Ramadan! Islam is the second largest religion following Christianity, with over a billion people participating in Ramadan every year. In Malta, there are around 3000 Muslims. Despite its popularity, many still don’t know much about it and this article aims to correct that.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar consisting of 354 days spread over 12 months. It celebrates the 1st revelation of prophet Muhammed in 610AD, which eventually led to the Quran being written. This year Ramadan will begin on the evening of 13th April and will end on the evening of 12th May. In this month Muslims are obliged to fast from sunrise to sunset. During fasting, they should also abstain from tobacco and sexual relations.
The aim of all this is to focus oneself to more spiritual practices, such as praying and doing acts of charity. Besides the normal practice of praying 5 times a day, extra nightly prayers known as ‘Tarawih’ are also usually said, although they are not compulsory.
Ramadan can take a toll on some people’s health and so Muslims who are ill, travelling, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or menstruating are exempt from participating in the fasting. They are however expected to make up for this by either fasting in the future or feeding the poor. Conversely in healthy people it has been associated positively with decreased insulin resistance and weight loss.
The first pre-dawn meal is known as ‘Suhoor’ whilst the meal which breaks the day-long fast in the evening is known as ‘Iftar’. It is usually an elaborate feast which is celebrated together with friends and family. Traditionally the fast is first broken by eating dates. According to Malta’s timetable Suhoor should be taken before 5:15am and Iftar should be eaten after 7:30pm.
The end of Ramadan is marked by a new crescent moon and is celebrated by a feast known as Eid al-Fitr. This can last for 3 days and is marked by big celebrations and giving gifts to children. This year Eid al-Fitr will begin on the evening of 12th May.
From all of us here at Insite, we wish all of our readers a Ramadan Mubarak!