No fun in the sun: Understanding Ramadan

We're smack dab in the middle of Ramadan, one of the holiest holidays for Muslims everywhere. In its honour, we're explaining exactly what that means.
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No fun in the sun: Understanding Ramadan

We're smack dab in the middle of Ramadan, one of the holiest holidays for Muslims everywhere. In its honour, we're explaining exactly what that means.
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Twitter
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THE BACKGROUND

It’s Ramadan, and we’re explaining what that means, and why your go-to lunch spot seems a little less crowded this month.

If missing breakfast has you hangry, consider this: During Ramadan, Muslims fast all day, from the moment the sun comes up until it sets in the evening.

Why would anyone put themselves through that, you ask? Ramadan is a sacred month in Islamic faith. It’s about self-discipline, community and giving back to those who are less fortunate.

A BRIEF HISTORY LESSON

Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar. It’s a holy month for Muslimsthat commemorates a pivotal moment in Islamic history more than 1,400 years ago.

Ramadan represents the month in which the first verses of the Quran (Islam’s holy book) were revealed to Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.

THERE ARE 354 DAYS IN A (LUNAR) YEAR

Ramadan occurs every year, but the start of this holy month changes each year. (This year, Ramadan began on May 6.)

That’s because the Islamic calendar goes by lunar months and the number of days in each lunar month varies from 29 to 30, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

As a result, the lunar calendar moves ahead by about 10 days every year. (And you thought it was hard to remember your mom’s birthday every year!) The traditional calendar, which follows the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun, has 365 days (sometimes 364); the lunar calendar has 354 days.

This also means that the length of the fast varies. In recent years, Ramadan has fallen during the summer months so the number of daylight hours is greater. While in the winter months, the fast might be as short as 10–12 hours, during this time of year, it’s between 16 and 20 hours long.

WHO PARTICIPATES?

Islam is the world’s second largest religion, after Christianity. More than one billion Muslims around the world observe Ramadan, though not everyone fasts. (It’s intended that only those who are in good health fast.) 

Pregnant or nursing women, the elderly and children are exempt. Women are also exempt from fasting during menstruation (because no woman should have to give up chocolate during that time of the month).

During the fast, it’s business as usual during the day. Muslims continue to go to work and school, albeit with a little less energy than usual. Once the sun sets, family and friends gather for an evening feast, called iftar, and dates are often the first snack to break the fast. (They’re digested quickly for instant fuel.) After that, it’s delicious dishes like Fattoush, and Dal. Muslims may also wake up extra early in the morning to eat a meal (called suhoor) in the hours before the sun rises.

But it’s not just food that’s given up. The fast also requires abstinence from drinking (even water), smoking and sex during daylight. So basically, no fun is had between the hours of approximately 5am and 9pm.

IS YOUR STOMACH GROWLING YET?

Ramadan is a time to practice self-discipline while also being charitable to others.

Muslims fast as a way to remind them of the sufferings of the less fortunate and teach how little we really need. It’s also intended to bring those who fast closer to God and their faith. During the month, many Muslims will attend special services at a mosque, and participate in charitable events or fundraisers.

So, no, it has nothing to do with weight loss or the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

In fact, there are reports of an uptick in digestive-related illnesses after fasting and even an increase in obesity. That’s not related to the fasting itself, but rather, the overeating that tends to happen once the sun goes down. (You try controlling yourself at the dinner table after not eating all day.)

BREAKING THE FAST

The end of Ramadan (which likely falls on June 4 this year) is celebrated with Eid al-Fitr, which means “Festival of Breaking the Fast.” This also marks the start of a new lunar month.

Eid al-Fitr may last as long as three days where families eat together, pray, and celebrate.

Sounds like cause for celebration to us!Victoria Day is considered Canada’s oldest state holiday.

— JOIN THE FEAST —

Beef Rendang from Rasa Malaysia
Fattoush Salad from Bon Appetit
Indian Lentil Dal with Hearty Greens from The Kitchn
Mamool (date-filled cookies) from Food 52

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