The ninth-month lunar calendar is marked by Muslims all over the world through a complete fast from dawn to sunset for the period of a month. While it is mainly associated with abstaining from the consumption of food and drink or cigarettes during daylight hours, the significance of Ramadan goes much deeper than that. The observance includes every part of the body, probably best described by the Arabic word for fasting, sawm, which means ‘to refrain’. This includes not looking at unlawful (haram)things, not uttering harsh words or backbiting, not listening to idle gossip and not allowing yourself to visit illicit places. During this period, the complete overhaul of the usual way of life is intended to educate and purify the soul in a reaffirmation of the word ‘Muslim’ – a term that translates as ‘one who submits to the will of Allah’. With fasting having been ordained by God in the Qur’an, the adherence to the ritual is an act of obedience.
Fasting is a fundamental part of being a Muslim; it is one of the five pillars of Islam that teaches self-discipline, sacrifice, humility and the importance of giving to those less fortunate. It is essentially a time when Muslims do a spring-clean of their souls as they embark on this period of self-reflection, which eradicates bad habits, strengthens family bonds and encourages forgiveness through Islamic guidance and increased prayer. While many expats see this as an opportune time to get away from the city, it is actually one of the most beautiful times of year for those practicing the Islamic faith, with even small children wanting to get involved and experience Ramadan in its entirety with their adult family members. There are, of course, many individuals who are exempt from observing the fast, such as pregnant women and those who have a medical illness. Yet, despite being ‘let off the hook’, so to speak, these people often express regret at not being able to partake in the festivities, which unites Muslims from all over the world – regardless of age, race or colour – to face a common goal and stand together as one for the pleasure of God.