About a fifth of the world's population will be observing the month of Ramadan in just a few days, but many people don't know much about it.
Here is a short list of common questions Muslims get all the time about Ramadan:
1. What is Ramadan?
Ramadan رمضان is the ninth month in the Islamic [lunar] calendar, in which Muslims observe fasting or sawm.
2. Why do Muslims fast in Ramadan?
Muslims can fast at any time. Ramadan though is the only time of year when fasting is obligatory.
Fasting improves self-control and discipline as Muslims are required to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and having sex from sunrise to sunset.
The list includes several other habits such as backbiting, cursing, and fighting. And while those are forbidden all year long, in Ramadan, abstaining from them is absolutely crucial.
Muslims also fast to show solidarity with and compassion for the poor. Fasting allows them to experience hunger and thirst - even if just for a few hours a day - and motivates them to be more charitable and helpful to those in need.
3. Are all Muslims required to fast?
During Ramadan, any healthy Muslim who's hit puberty is required to fast. On the other hand, pregnant women, nursing mothers, postpartum women, people on medication, seniors who are too weak to fast and travelers are exempted from fasting. When health issues are involved, a doctor's orders take precedence.
4. Why does it fall in different seasons?
Ramadan is a Hijri month. The Hijri Calendar is a lunar one composed of 354 or 355 days. This means that it takes 30 years for the holy month to return to any season.
5. Are you allowed to drink water at least?
6. Do you really go without eating or drinking for 30 days?
Muslims fast for a certain amount of time during the day, so no, we don't go a whole month without eating or drinking, we're human beings after all.
Muslims are required to only fast from dawn till sunset. At the end of each day, Muslims break their fast with a meal known as Iftar.
The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr.
7. What do you do to stay in shape while fasting?
We do سحور.
Suhoor is eaten just before dawn during Ramadan. The meal helps sustain people who are fasting throughout the day.
8. So why is Ramadan so special?
Ramadan is believed to be the holiest period in the Hijri calendar as the Qur'an was revealed during this month. Muslims believe that good actions bring greater reward during Ramadan than at any other time of year.
The month of Ramadan is a time for reflection and self-improvement and ridding oneself of bad habits. It's a time for strengthening family ties and resolving disputes.
9. What makes mosques much more crowded in Ramadan?
Mosques are filled with worshipers seeking the Taraweeh prayers, which are long night prayers that last for one and a half to two hours. These prayers are not obligatory, but a highly recommended optional act of worship.
Praying in groups at mosques or elsewhere is believed to have more social and spiritual benefit than praying alone. It gives Muslims a better chance to meet one another and improve relationships in the community itself.
10. How come you gained weight then?
One word: Qatayef.
These fried dumplings, filled with cream and nuts and served with mouth watering sugar syrup, are the main reason why many Muslims gain weight instead of losing some during Ramadan.