The A to Z of Ramadan

19 Aug 2009

Everything you need to know about the holy month

A is for August
This year Ramadan falls from late August and until late September – the Islamic calendar is based on a lunar year, which is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, which is why Ramadan moves forward by 11 days every year.

B is for Belief
Muslims believe that Ramadan is the time when they can be closer to Allah and will sympathise with those who are less well off. It is also believed that through fasting they will become more pious.

C is for Covering Up
Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, and it is important to show respect by covering yourself and not showing off unnecessary skin, which is considered offensive.

D is for Dates
Dates are eaten to break the fast at the end of the day. Ancient Islamic literature said the Messenger of Allah would break his fast with ripe dates, hence why it the tradition continues today.

E is for Eid Al Fitr
Eid Al Fitr is announced at the end of month of Ramadan, with the sighting of the new moon. The holiday lasts for three days and symbolises the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next Islamic month, Shawwal.

F is for Fasting
Throughout Ramadan, Muslims don’t eat, drink or smoke from sunrise to sunset. All Muslims fast unless they are too old, ill, pregnant or it is dangerous for them. International travellers are also exempt, but must make up for it at another time.

G is for Gabgha
Following Iftar, families and friends get together for a Gabgha – a lively gathering with food and entertainment that lasts throughout night.

H is for Haraam
Haraam means forbidden. Some of the things that are haraam during Ramadan include eating during daylight, not praying five times a day, not giving zakat (see z) and not reading the Qura’an.

I is for Iftar
When the sun goes down, the end of fasting is marked with Maghrib, which is when Muslims will have Iftar – the meal to break their fast.

J is for Jannah
Jannah is the Islamic paradise. It is believed that those who fast will go to heaven and those who help someone break their fast are also cleansed of their sins and rewarded with heaven.

L is for Late Nights
With festivities not kicking off until late, you can expect plenty of these throughout the month! Most celebrations will keep going until dawn and Suhour.

M is for Moon
The moon decides when Ramadan starts and ends. While astrologists may know when to expect a new moon, it has to be physically seen before anything can proceed.

N is for No Disco Dancing!
A blanket ban on alcohol is placed on most nightclubs throughout the month, and there is also no loud outdoor music allowed. So be prepared for some quiet nights in during August.

O is for Opening Hours

Throughout the month most restaurants will change their opening hours with most closed until sunset. Shops will also be open later in the day. Check for timings.

P is for Prayer
Prayer is an integral part of Islam throughout the year, but it is especially important during Ramadan. In addition to the regular five times a day, voluntary Taraweeh prayers are performed at night.

Q is for Qura’an
The holy book of Islam, the Qura’an is considered to be the book of divine guidance for mankind and the final revelation of God. Muslims are encouraged to read it throughout Ramadan.

R is for Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the muslim calendar, and the fourth pillar of Islam. Also known as ‘Sawm’, it is a month of abstinence while also being uplifting, cleansing and spiritually purifying.

S is for Suhour
Before dawn, fasting Muslims will have suhour, which is the only meal they will eat from sunrise to sunset. Generally they have slow-release carbs, such as porridge, to keep them going throughout the day.

T is for Travelling
Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr is a time to be with family, so many Muslims fly home to spend it with their loved ones. Eid is a popular time for short breaks so be sure to book early!

U is for Umm Ali
This delicious calorific dish is a popular dessert, with layers of puff pastry, cream and pistachios. Also look out for mouhalabia, baklava and kunafa to satisfy your sweet tooth.

V is for Visiting
As one of the more social months, people will spend many evenings visiting friends and family and gathering together throughout Ramadan.

W is for World
Ramadan is observed around the world, however some customs can slightly differ – for example in Europe, they have adapted the Christmas advent calendar, so muslim children get a chocolate and information on Ramadan every day.

X is for Exercise
While the month of fasting may sound to many like the ultimate diet to follow, many muslims can put on weight during the holy month due to the pattern of eating so late. Therefore it is essential to keep active.

Y is for Yearly
Annual festivals are held in Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK to celebrate Ramadan and introduce non-Muslims to the festival, but with the whole experience right on your doorstep, why not take advantage and learn more?

Z is for Zakat
The third pillar of Islam, Zakat, is all about charity. Anyone who earns a minimum wage for a lunar year is obliged to pay 2.5 per cent of their earnings to charity before Eid Al Fitr, though it’s a practice encouraged all year round.