Ramadan, may we meet again.

Updated: Sep 23

Ramadan, 30 days long - no food, no water - from sunrise to sunset. No not even a tiny drop of water. How we get on with life while performing one of the pillars of our faith? We are guided by a higher consciousness, is it hard? Yes, but we are on a spiritual detox.

Ramadan in a nutshell

For Muslims Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him is the final prophet who was sent as a guide to deliver the true word of God. The Quran, our Holy Book was first revealed to him on mount Jabl-e-Nur, in cave of Hira by the angel Jibreel Alayhi al-Salaam, also known by Christians as the angel Gabriel. The following words were spoken by the angel Jibreel (AS) to Muhammad (PBUH): “Recite! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)." [al-‘Alaq 96:1-3]. This event occurred in the month of Ramadan. Allah (SWT) directly gave Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the power to recite the secret of all Creation. As Allah (SWT) is ordering His Messenger to "Recite".

One of the five pillars of Islam is to fast during the Holy month of Ramadan. But what is fasting actually about? As for many words in Arabic, there is always a deeper meaning to a word. To simply abstain from food and drink is what is called As Sawn. This is the singular definition for abstaining with the intention of worship. We also have a more thorough way of the fasting, we call this As Siyam, which means to abstain from anything that can invalidate the fasting which is intended to be an act of worship. This includes not eating and drinking, but also not backbiting, swearing, to stop our hand from corrupt acts like stealing or fraud, but also to not have intercourse with our partners between sunrise and sunset with the intention of worship.

The meal you eat during the morning, before the fast is called Suhoor, to consume this meal is considered to be a Sunnah, and it is consumed before dawn. The end of our daily fast, which is consumed after sunset, is called Iftaar.

Preconceived Notions

When speaking of Ramadan with our peers and even with fellow Muslims, we realize that there are often misconceptions as to what Ramadan really entails. Hence, here are four of the most common misconceptions:

1) Ramadan and specifically Iftar is all about eating in abundance:

Before the start of Ramadan, many Muslim households opt to do a lot of grocery shopping. The fridges and kitchen cabinets are fully packed. Iftar tables with different dishes are deliciously looking, and waiting to be consumed by hungry fasters. In a digital era like ours, some of those fasters love to share their iftar meals on social media. Thus, it is not surprising that those who do not know the faith confuse Ramadan and iftar with a month that is all about eating in abundance. Many times while in conversation with Dutch friends, there have been occasions that while others seem rather surprised by the fact that Muslims cannot eat or drink during Ramadan, others nonchalantly claim that it is not that difficult, because Muslims eat from dusk to dawn, so they won’t be hungry during the day. Referring to what was previously mentioned. However, thinking that eating in abundance is part of Ramadan or even Islamic culture is a false premise.

One of the commands in the Quran is actually targeting this topic, it says: Eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like the lavish.” (Al-A’raf/The Elevated Place 7:31) On top of this there is an Hadith (narration of the Prophet PBUH) instructing how muslims should eat and drink, the Prophet PBUH said: ‘’Human beings do not fill a plate worse than their stomach. It is enough for him to eat and drink only as much as that keeps him up. If he has to eat more, then let him reserve one-third of his stomach for meal, beverage, and breathing.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd/Asceticism, 47; Ibn Majah, At’imah/Foods, 50).

From this, we can clearly understand that the practice of eating too much is a cultural principle which people might confuse with Islam; however, it is something that is generally not advised in Islam.

2) Eid a feast characterized by sugary food?

The end of Ramadan is celebrated with Eid-al-Fitr also known as sugar feast. It is the day on which all Muslims are prohibited to fast and are told to celebrate. A common misconception regarding this feast is that many think that Muslims eat only or mostly sugary food. The reason for this in my opinion might be the translation of the Eid-al-Fitr into sugar feast or in Dutch Suikerfeest. However, Eid is no way connected to the consumption of sweet food. Nonetheless, Muslims do tend to eat together during this day, to pray, and have fun because it is a feast. How the day is celebrated can differ from country to country, but one thing that is sunnah, besides the above is the prayer of Eid performed in the morning.

3) Ramadan Muslims

Another widespread misconception is that Ramadan is the month of being the perfect Muslim (a misconception held by many Muslims). This means doing everything as recommended by the prophet PBUH, which of course is great. The problem; however, is that after Ramadan all those actions seem to fade away, and it becomes as if Ramadan never existed. Or Ramadan becomes the only period when Muslims really have to be committed to their religion. This is a misguided perspective of this time, as Muslims are always expected to do as the prophet PBUH recommended. Muslims are always expected to pray, to be charitable, not to gossip, etc. The month of Ramadan more than anything is a preparation for the rest of the year. Mufti Menk (a famous Islamic scholar) in one of his talks said: ‘if you can fast an entire month if you can abstain from what is halal for the sake of your maker, you can also abstain from what is haram for the sake of the same maker for the other 11 months’. To be able to do this, it is important for Muslims to hold onto the positive habits they worked on and developed during Ramadan, and try to resist old habits. The reason for this is to not let the month of fasting be for nothing, but instead a foundation for spiritual growth. (Disclaimer, this misconception is not applicable for everyone and or to different degrees. It should also be recognized that people experience faith and or spirituality differently, and are all on different journeys, which is totally fine.)

4) Ramadan is all about abstaining from food

When asked what Ramadan is about, most people tend to refer to it as the month of fasting. The focus is on abstaining from food for the sake of Allah (SWT), but there is much more than just this. As a matter of fact, just fasting without praying, while insulting and or having intercourse during the day can all cause your fast not to be accepted. Having intercourse or not praying definitely makes your fast invalid. As for breaking other rules, it is up to the merciful to decide whether he accepts your fast or not.

What should be understood more than anything, is the fact, that unlike anything else Muslims engage in the fast is the one thing they do for the sake of God. all other things they do for themselves.

To illustrate, the prophet Muhammad PBUH said in a narration mentioned in Sahih al Bukhari and Muslim: Every deed of the son of Adam is multiplied, a single deed as ten times the like of it up to seven hundred times. Allah Almighty said, ‘Except for fasting, as it is for Me and I will reward it. He leaves his desires and his food for My sake.’”

The shifting focus during Ramadan from food and otherworldly desires can lead to the enjoyment of religion. It is important to realize from all this that by assuming that Ramadan is only about abstaining from food is wrong. It is about much more than that, it is done for the sake of Allah (SWT) and will be greatly rewarded.

So why do we fast? To answer that question with one word would be, for fulfillment, the feeling when you have gotten to the point at which you got closer to God during this month, you feel a sense of achievement in your humanity. This gives you a sense of purpose and a hope to stay on the path of righteousness.

Abstain from sustenance, worldly things, and to turn back to your one and only, that being Allah (SWT). Riiziane described it as the month you let go of the sense of immediate gratification and the letting go of the feeling of control. For example, when you eat the second you’re hungry you try to immediately feed your desires, regardless of whether it is necessary. By abstaining from your desires you practice a sense of self-control, to the point at which you build a dependence on your sustainer and affirm your religious beliefs. Now, this doesn’t mean we desire not to eat or drink, rather it is about balance. As challenging as it might be, we strive to be balanced in consumption not only of food and drinks but everyday things. It is like a detox from over-consumption and materialism. We naturally tend to think we are controlling our needs by consumption, but the spiritual and physical training Ramadan gives us is to understand and let go of the idea of consumption as control. Consumption no longer becomes the controlling component.

The end and a new beginning

At the end of the Ramadan, Muslims hope to have achiev