Celebrating the holy month of Ramadan

By Layal Srour
April 28, 2021

It couldn’t have gone better- celebrating the month of Ramadan during April’s Arab-American heritage month.

This year, Ramadan began on April 12, 2021 and will go on for 30 days, ending on May 12, 2021.

As you would say Merry Christmas or Happy Thanksgiving, we say “Ramadan Kareem” at the start of the Ramadan month.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and the holy month of fasting. Because the Muslim calendar year is shorter than the Gregorian calendar year, Ramadan begins 10 days earlier each year.

I have been celebrating Ramadan since I was 9 years old, each year a little bit easier than the last.

Throughout this month, Muslims devote themselves to their faith and come closer to Allah, or God.
As National Geographic defined, “Muslims fast during that month as a way to commemorate the revelation of the Quran.”

The Quran, the holy book of Islam.
Photo by Layal Srour

Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which forms the basis of how Muslims live their lives. The other pillars are faith, prayers, alms and pilgrimage.

Throughout the year, including the month of Ramadan, it is mandatory that we pray five times a day, making them up if missed while at work or school, as well as read the Quran, the holy book of Islam.

Ramadan also teaches us to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy for those who are less fortunate.

When we fast, we do not eat, drink, smoke, swim, etc. from sunrise to sunset, with an exception if the person is ill, elderly, traveling, menstruating or pregnant.

After fasting for 15-17 hours, breaking our fast at night allows the family to get together at the dinner table, have a large dinner and be grateful for what we have and not take advantage of having what others don’t.

Fasting must be accompanied by a prayer and giving to charities or directly to the poor.

So, because I live in the United States and our family lives in Lebanon, they give back to charities and the poor on our behalf.

Aside from the spiritual level, fasting is safe and beneficial to your health. It cleanses our body of toxins and protects from obesity and associated chronic diseases.

It also reduces inflammation and improves overall fitness, supports weight loss and decreases the risk of metabolic diseases.

This year, for dinner, or iftar in Arabic, we break our fast at 8 p.m., but it gets later every day due to the time of the sunset.

Ramadan dinner with family.
Photo by Layal Srour

We can eat and drink anything until sunrise, where we eat a light meal like cereal, a sandwich, eggs, etc. In Arabic, it is called suhoor. Rather than going to sleep and waking up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. to eat, I usually stay up until that time then go to sleep.

During that time, I watch TV, catching up on the shows I have missed, watch Golden Girls and Frasier or spend time on the phone.

Ramadan ends with a celebration we call Eid al-Fitr, which is translated as the festival of breaking the fast. On this day, Muslims gather in a mosque or open field outdoors to pray to Allah and ask for mercy and forgiveness for the less fortunate and their own future.

Also on Eid, Muslims are required to take part in an act of charity, giving money, food, etc. to the poor.

We celebrate Eid with family as a way to show our thanks and gratefulness for the life we live and for what we have by going out to dinner or gathering at one’s home. When I was younger, we would celebrate by going out to dinner and our parents would buy us a gift in celebration of the end of Ramadan.

In 2022, Ramadan will fall on April 2 and end on May 2.

Layal Srour

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