Ramadan 101 for non-Muslims

Ramadan Mubarak!

Not sure where to begin with this whole Muslim fasting thing? Here’s everything you need to know about the Muslim month of Ramadan:

1. Ramadan is a MONTH (Not a holiday). It is a literal month in the Islamic calendar; the 9th month.

2. Ramadan is NOT at the same time every year. This is because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and this shifts the timing of the months. Every year, Ramadan is about 10 days earlier.

3. This is why the moon sighting is such a big deal to Muslims. It marks the beginning of the month!

4. Fasting is the 4th pillar of the Islamic faith (the 5 pillars include: the shahada, the 5 daily prayers, charity, fasting, and the pilgrimage)

5. A fast is from dawn to sunset. We do NOT starve ourselves for 30 days; we just abstain from the morning until the evening.

6. The fast includes abstaining from food, drink (including water), and sexual relations. And gum too!

7. Some people are exempt from fasting: pregnant or breastfeeding women, the elderly, the ill (mentally or physically), children who have not hit puberty yet, and those who are travelling.

8. When Muslims eat in the evening, it is called Iftar. Literally, “break-fast.”

9. Muslims also get up in the morning for Suhoor before the sun rises to eat before starting the day.

10. After Iftar, many Muslims choose to perform taraweeh prayers, which are extra night prayers, either at the Mosque or in their home.*

11. Qiyam is when a Muslim decides to pray all night until sunrise.*

12. Muslims believe that during Ramadan, the gates of Hell are closed and all devils are locked up, while the gates of Heaven are open (so Ramadan is supposed to be a time you can find out your true self, away from the influence of Satan’s whispers).

13. Lailut al-Qadr (“the night of power”), which Muslims believe is the night the Prophet received the Quran, is thought to fall on an odd night in the last 10 days of Ramadan. Mosques during this time are packed since it is said that whoever finds this night seeking forgiveness, will have all their previous sins forgiven.

14. Before Ramadan ends, all Muslims must pay Zakat al-fitr, an obligatory charity that goes to the poor.

15. The moon will be sought out again at the end of the month, but regardless, Ramadan can never exceed 30 days.

16. Eid ul-Fitr is the 3-day holiday Muslims have once Ramadan is over.

And that’s when you’ll say, Eid Mubarak!

*The distinction made between Taraweeh and Qiyam here reflects what is done in practice. Yet religiously, the two terms are one and the same.

P.S. For Muslims, here’s the best BuzzFeed list on Ramadan here. Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “Ramadan 101 for non-Muslims

    1. Yes this is true. I guess I should clarify that the distinction is made in practice during Ramadan, but is not religiously based. I don’t want to make it too complicated since this is meant for a non-Muslim audience.

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