This Friday is the first day of Ramadan, one of the most important holidays in the Islamic faith. Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days according to the visual sightings of the crescent moon. This year the holiday will begin on the night of July 19th and last until August 18th. Every day during this month Muslims around the world will fast throughout the daylight hours. Muslims believe that Mohammed first received the Qur'an from God during the month of Ramadan, and fast as a way to symbolize their submission (the literal translation of “Islam” in Arabic) to God.
The Five Pillars of Islam
The Arabic word for "fasting" (sawm) means "to refrain" - and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts, and words. Sawm is one of the five pillars of Islam, which also includes the shahada (declaration of faith) the salah (daily prayers) zakat (giving of charity) and hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). The whole month is a time for spiritual reflection and prayers, and it is believed that fulfilling any of the five pillars of Islam during this month will multiply the spiritual benefits. Many Muslims will read the whole Qur'an during Ramadan, or hear it recited during prayers in the Mosque where every day during the month 1/30 of the book is read until it is completed.
Special events during Ramadan
Once the sun sets the fast is broken with a meal called the iftar, which is seen as a time of fellowship between family and friends and has grown into large banquets in many countries. Traditionally, the iftar meal begins by eating three dates, just as Mohammed did during the first Ramadan. The most important night of Ramadan, and the whole year, is Laylat al-Qadr where it is believed God first revealed the Quran to Mohammed. Finally the last day of Ramadan is called Eid ul-Fitr, which is also celebrated with much revelry.
There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and every able bodied adherent (exceptions given to pregnant or nursing women, and the sick or elderly) are expected to fast during the month of Ramadan. That means more than a billion people will be fasting during the day this month!
Are you hosting a Muslim visitor, or would you like to engage with Islamic cultures during this special month? Here are some suggestions for activities in Boston:
This Friday Boston’s Center for Arabic Culture is holding an “Evening of Palestinian Embroidery from Gaza” event. It’s a great opportunity to see intricately handmade Palestinian embroidery, with proceeds from the sales going to help families in Gaza. 38 Newbury St. 7th floor; 6:30- 9:30pm
Algiers Coffee House is a Harvard Square staple that is famous for its Arabic coffee and Middle Eastern foods. Serenely sip a cup of coffee or tea and watch the busy traffic outside!
If you or your visitor would like to take part in Ramadan celebrations, especially the iftar meal, the Islamic Society of Boston is holding numerous events at their Cultural Center in Roxbury over the month.
Share any Ramadan celebrations you have with Global Immersions!