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By Admir Rasic
What exactly is Ramadan?
To Muslims, Ramadan is a month of intense spiritual practice, reflection, prayer, and fasting. Ramadan is the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, which is a 12-month lunar calendar. This means that Ramadan starts and ends at different dates each year based on the standard Gregorian calendar. Generally, the Ramadan start date is about 11 days earlier each year when compared to the prior year. In 2017, Ramadan started on May 26, while in 2018 it is expected to start on May 15. In 2019, Ramadan will likely start on May 4.
The most well-known practice during Ramadan is the pre-dawn to dusk fast. Muslims do not eat or drink anything between pre-dawn and dusk. The fast lasts an average of 17-18 hours per day during the summer months in Spokane, and an average of 9-10 hours in the winter months. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, Muslims are required to abstain from behaviors that impact their spirituality such as lying, cursing, anger, arguments and bad intentions. Some scholars explain that the entire body is fasting during Ramadan. The stomach is abstaining from food; the ears are abstaining from arguments and gossip; the mouth is abstaining from cursing, yelling, and anger; the mind is abstaining from negative thoughts.
The purpose of the Ramadan practices is to practice piety, patience, and to be conscious and cognizant of God. When fasting, the hunger reminds me that the path to righteousness and godliness is challenging and difficult. I am also reminded that I am fortunate and blessed to not have to worry where my next meal is coming from, which is not the case of millions of people in this country and around the world. I am also reminded to do good deeds by donating time and resources to charitable causes, volunteering in my community, and being a good neighbor. Ramadan encourages Muslims to establish productive habits and to quit harmful habits. Last Ramadan, I decreased the amount of time I spent on social media because I simply didn’t have time in my day since I increased my time on inner reflection, fasting, volunteering, and prayer. I learned that I need to spend less time on my phone and more time actually doing something productive if I am serious about establishing productive and healthy habits. There are many other aspects of Ramadan that Muslims find beneficial and individuals may choose to focus on one area over others. Ultimately, the point of Ramadan is to be a better person by the time the month comes to an end compared to the person you were going into the month.
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