Ramadan: Things you might need to know

It’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and Muslims have been fasting throughout it for more than 14 centuries. And yet non-Muslims are always full of questions. Here are the answers to some of the most common:

 

So you don’t eat at all?

No, we only fast during daylight hours – from dawn until sundown. This year in the UK, that means over 18 hours of nil by mouth – we can’t eat, drink, smoke, or have sex during those hours.

 

Don’t you get hungry?

Yes, we get hungry and thirsty, but that’s the point. We eat Sehri, a pre-dawn meal, and at sunset we break the fast (called Iftar), usually with a date and a glass of water.

 

A date with whom?

A date with introspection. Ramadan is an opportunity to focus on the soul rather than the body, so we get through the day trying to be more spiritual, as well as seeking to improve our behaviour. We empathise with those in need and give thanks for having food at the end of the day, when millions of people don’t have that luxury.

 

Surely kids don’t have that kind of self-control?

Children don’t have to fast, but they can if they really want to. Although once puberty hits, there is no escape. Also exempt are the elderly, the sick, and anyone who has a medical condition.

 

Isn’t it a bit hot to fast in July?

Muslims follow the lunar calendar, so every year it moves back 11 days. The last time Ramadan was in July was 1980. Go figure.

 

So it all started on Wednesday?

Well, not quite. Every year there is a bit of chaos, because of the different ways of measuring. Generally speaking, Muslims follow the traditional method of sighting the new moon with the naked eye and we look to Saudi Arabia to declare it. Then there is the local sighting issue – do we follow the moon being sighted in the UK or do we follow the opinion that the first Muslim to see the new moon, no matter where, means the rest of the world can start Ramadan? Or there is the argument for astronomical calculations rather than naked-eye sightings.

 

I’m confused. Do you celebrate it every time you see the moon?

No, that would be ridiculous. But it is confusing. Especially when it comes to Eid.

 

And who is this Eid?

Eid is basically a rave-up at the end of Ramadan, when families and friends get together to feast after fasting. It starts with a prayer at the mosque and then we eat as if we haven’t eaten in a month.

Christian and Muslim Leaders Criticize Ban on Religious Artefacts in Old Folks Home

07./ 08.07.2011

In an attempt to promote diversity, residents at a sheltered housing complex in Preston, Lancashire, have been banned from displaying religious objects in communal areas. Both local Christian and Muslim leaders criticised the ruling and pointed to the importance of their faith to the elderly people. However, “Places for People”, the organisation that runs the place, are determined to uphold the ban of religious symbols in communal areas to promote diversity. The ban does not mean, however, that residents cannot display religious objects in their own home within the complex. 

Nursing home to open Moroccan department in Utrecht

A Utrecht nursing home for the elderly plans to open up a ‘Moroccan department’ in its facility later this summer. The nursing home, located in the neighborhood of Overvecht, will open up spots for twelve Moroccan elderly who are in poor health. The department will cater to cultural and religious sensitivities of its residents, and will include offering Moroccan TV, and making halal meals for its residents. Activities will also be adapted for the needs of the Moroccan residents. According to the nursing home’s owner, Aveant, there is great need for such a department in the local Moroccan community, and for facilities to cater to special consideration of the background and customs of its residents. Experience with Moroccan elderly shows that many do not feel at home in a regular nursing home, but Aveant is hoping that with more sensitive accommodations, it will provide a more home-like atmosphere for aging Moroccans, and to employ personnel who know the language and culture of its residents.