Every year when the ninth month of the Islamic calendar approaches, Muslims worldwide prepare to observe the 29- to- 30 days of Ramadan. This religious observance is one of the “5 Pillars of Islam.” You see, the Quran states how Muhammad first received the revelations in the lunar month of Ramadan; therefore, the moment upon visual sighting of the crescent moon, the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar is considered to be in commencement.
During this month an obligation for Muslims is ‘fardh’ or fasting; not only in relation to food from dawn until sunset, but also from: sinful behavior, smoking, drinking, engaging in sexual relations and some Muslims even refrain from swearing.
As a non- Muslim I was very curious about the purpose of fasting, so to get a more accurate observation of the meaning of Ramadan, I called upon one of my closest friends Maya. With Maya’s help, I hope to garner a better understanding of how Y’s who practice Islam, are using this moment to spiritually reflect upon their improvement through increased devotion and worship. “Fasting during Ramadan can be difficult for young Americans. In many Muslim countries, stores have limited hours during daylight and eateries are open late so that Muslims can enjoy food into the night…However, in America, young people have to balance: work, school, and extracurricular activities in communities, where not everyone is necessarily supportive or informed about the Holy Month. I always felt that the aura of Ramadan in Muslim Countries is comparable to the festive spirit felt during the time surrounding Christmas in America.”
One of the most important aspects of the month of Ramadan is honoring the pillar of Islam known as Zakãt or charity, Muslims believe good deeds are especially rewarded during this time. Maya delves into the purpose for religious observance in more detail… “In my opinion, this time is a special way of learning more about our religion, reflecting on my faith in God, and generally observing in acts and thoughts of kindness. It’s almost like a detox for the soul… Ramadan is increased prayer. Practicing Muslims are already prescribed a regimen of praying five times a day, but during Ramadan, there are nightly gatherings for long prayers, and we are encouraged to exercise increased concentration and gratitude to God during prayer.”
So, I learned that the practice of increased prayer and fasting is meant to encourage and redirect your heart away from worldly distractions; in addition, cleansing the soul from harmful impurities, by teaching better practices of: self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy.
After reading this passage from the Quran, Chapter 2, Revelation 5: “The month of Ramadan is that which was revealed the Quran… You should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.” I asked Maya how Gen Y Muslims are impacting traditions of Ramadan, and she explained that, “fasting is easier when you’re able to integrate your social calendar with your religious obligations. It is not uncommon to see Generation Y’ers breaking fast together, or seeking out late- night dinners, where they can eat Suhoor together (Suhoor is the “breakfast” meal that Muslims eat prior to Sunrise, before fasting for the day begins.)”
Taking the time to better understand the meaning of different religions and their cultural practices makes the world a more accepting and beautiful place for us all. In the words of Gen Y, Jasmin Alostaz, “Ramadan is a month filled with peace, love, and good deeds.”