16 April 2020

Ten Facts about Ramadan

Ramadan starts on 23 April. But what is Ramadan? Here are ten key facts you ought to know.

Ramadan starts on 23 April 2020. But what is Ramadan? Here are ten key facts you need to know.

1. What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and means ‘scorching heat’ or ‘dryness’. It’s a special time when the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims fast and pray.

2. Why is Ramadan special for Muslims?

Muslims believe it was during this month that God revealed the first verses of the Quran, Islam's holy text, to Mohammed. They believe this happened on the ‘Night of Power’. During Ramadan, Muslims fast throughout each day as an act of devotion to Allah.

3. What do Muslims mean by fasting?

Fasting means going without food or drink. It is one of the five pillars or duties laid down by Mohammed. Ramadan is a time when Muslims are encouraged to practice self-restraint. They are also expected to increase their giving (another pillar of Islam) and study of the Quran.

4. How long do Muslims fast for each day?

They fast from sunrise to sunset, but of course the length of the day depends on where you live. It could be as little as 11 hours from sunrise to sunset, or as much as 20 hours. This year, the hours of fasting will be longer in London than Sydney, for example, but the day will be shorter than last year. Apps like Muslim Pro give specific timings for sunrise, sunset and prayers.

5. Does everyone have to fast?

There are special exceptions for those who are ill, elderly, or travelling and for young children. Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or on their periods, aren’t expected to fast either.

6. When does Ramadan start?

Ramadan always starts on the same day of the Islamic lunar calendar. However, its date on the Gregorian or solar calendar varies from year to year because the lunar calendar is approximately 11 days shorter. In 2020, Ramadan starts on 23 April. In 2029, it will start in mid-January.

7. Does normal life stop during Ramadan?

Although Muslims are not supposed to avoid work or school during Ramadan, many offices and schools in Muslim-majority countries shut early. After the evening meal, Muslims may stay up late into the night or early hours of the morning, sleeping only for a short time before rising again at sunrise to eat ‘suhoor’ and say morning prayers.

8. How long is Ramadan?

It lasts 30 days. In 2020, it runs from the evening of Thursday 23 April, when the new crescent moon can first be seen, to Saturday 23 May.

9. Will Muslims celebrate Ramadan differently this year because of COVID-19?

There will be challenges. Ramadan is a community affair with large numbers of people generally attending mosque in the evenings for ‘salat’ (prayers) and coming together with friends and family for ‘iftar’ (the breaking of the fast). This year, however, mosques have been closed and events have had to go online. Travel restrictions will also affect the ‘hajj’ or ‘pilgrimage’ to Mecca - another pillar of Islam - which all Muslims are expected to undertake at least once in their lifetime. Shopping to prepare for Ramadan will present a challenge, too, especially in countries where curfews and lockdowns have been imposed. The fact that schools and many businesses are currently closed may bring some welcome relief, however, with a chance to catch up on sleep lost during the late nights.

10. How do you say ‘Happy Ramadan’?

You can say ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (Happy Ramadan) or ‘Ramadan Kareem’ (Have a generous Ramadan). Ramadan ends with a three-day celebration called Eid-al-fitr (the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast). Then the greeting changes to ‘Eid Mubarak’.

Journey through Ramadan with Secret Believers

Ramadan is a time of fasting and praying and reflection. But for Christians in Muslim countries, Ramadan can be an isolating, even dangerous time. 

Please will you pray with and support our persecuted brothers and sisters during this time?

Read inspiring stories about the experience of persecuted Christians during the fast.

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