Ramadan Mubarak!

Since this is my 3rd time fasting during Ramadan since joining Reaktor (and people at the office might notice me not doing lunch anymore) I figured I could share a few things about this month.

A small disclaimer first: I’ve been a Muslim for 5 years only, and I’m not an expert in all things Islam. There are some varying views about specific rules and practices, and the experience is very personal as well. Take this post as a simplified introduction to Ramadan rather than a definite list of absolute facts, and feel free to ask questions or amend some of the things listed here. Wa-llahu alam.

So what is Ramadan about?

Ramadan is a month in the Islamic calendar in which Muslims observe a strict fast. In essence, it means no eating or drinking (no, not even water) from sunrise till sunset for one month. The fast during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, and all Muslims (who are able to do so) are required to participate in it.

The deeper spiritual purpose is a bit more fuzzy and subjective, but generally speaking the fasting is meant to bring you closer to God, your community, and appreciate the luxuries of your life more (and gain some perspective of people who are less wealthy). For me this month is about developing patience, compassion and gratefulness.

Sounds pretty intense!

Yes, it can be. The days are pretty long now (sunlight in Amsterdam at the moment: 4:00 to 21:30, and even going past 22:00 as the month progresses), and some of the warmer days can be extra challenging. Still, I get used to it quickly, and I manage to get through the day without too much trouble.

Important to note here is that you are exempt of (and even not allowed to continue) the fast if it imposes a risk to your health, safety, or you are otherwise not able to participate normally. The same goes for people who are traveling (in case you noticed me trying out the new Helsinki espresso machine last week). In the last case, you’re supposed to “catch up” on the fasting days you missed out on later.

When does it start?

This year’s Ramadan started somewhere last week. It’s a pretty tough question though, because the exact day is hard to determine up front. The Islamic calendar is lunar based, which means that Ramadan shifts forward by roughly 10 days every year.

A new month starts when a new moon is observed. The specific interpretation of what “observed” means varies, so Ramadan starts on a little bit different dates for different countries and people (but still roughly within 3 days of each other).

What happens next?

After 29 or 30 days of fasting, the end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr. The specific way of celebrating varies a lot, and I tend to keep this pretty low-key myself. That having said, I get very excited when getting my first espresso in a month, and usually try to do something fun during the day or go out for a nice dinner with friends and family.

I hope this post clarified things a bit for those who are not familiar with Ramadan. Of course, if you are curious about anything in particular, feel free to ask! I’m not easily offended and would be happy to share more about this and other Islam-related topics.