The holy month of Ramadan is the most sacred time for Muslims around the world. Being such an important time in the Islamic calendar, there is a lot of information about Ramadan that Muslims must know in order to fulfil their religious duties and give thanks to Allah for all He does.
To help simplify things, we’ve put together a list of the key Ramadan facts you need to know.
Ramadan is based on the fourth pillar of Islam known as sawm, so when reading about Ramadan, it makes sense to start with facts about Sawm.
The Meaning of Sawm
When translated, Sawm means ‘fasting’.
What is Sawm?
The pillars of Islam are the core values that all Muslims must adhere to and they form the basis of the religion as a whole. This means every Muslim must honour sawm.
How is Sawm Honoured?
The way Muslims honour the fourth pillar of Islam (sawm) is by fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
Facts About Ramadan
As mentioned, Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar that is undertaken to fulfil the fourth pillar of Islam. Holding such significance, there is much to know about Ramadan.
What is the Meaning of Ramadan?
The definition of Ramadan is all-encompassing. Its aim is to cleanse the mind, body and soul through prayer and by reciting the Qur’an. Fasting and abstention from sinful and/or impure acts are undertaken alongside holy activities in order to strengthen the bond with Allah and remind you to be grateful for all Allah has blessed you with. In addition to giving thanks to Allah, Ramadan is a time to become more compassionate and mindful of our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate. The intention behind Ramadan is to become a better Muslim.
Why Does Ramadan Hold Such Significance?
Ramadan is the holiest of all the months because it is said that this is the time the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed. The exact date is not known, but it is widely believed that it was on the 27th night, known as Laylat al-Qadr (The Night of Power).
When is Ramadan?
The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle which means it is different from the Gregorian calendar. The start of each month in the Islamic calendar is marked by the sighting of the new moon. This changes year on year, meaning the dates of Ramadan can change by up to 10 days every year, but it always falls on the ninth month.
Some Muslims choose to commence Ramadan based on the sighting of the moon above their local area, and others go by lunar projections rather than the actual sighting because visibility may be obscured by cloud. Meanwhile, some wait for the moon to be seen by Islamic leaders in Mecca.
The most notable feature of Islam is fasting, but it’s not quite as straight forward as abstaining from eating and drinking.
Why do we fast?
The intention behind fasting is to honour the fourth pillar of Islam and to cleanse the body, but also to show solidarity with those who are less fortunate and do not have enough food.
What are the rules of fasting?
During Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat or drink during daylight hours.
Who can fast?
Not everyone will be able to fast due to health reasons, and as such, certain groups are exempt, including:
- Pre-pubescent children
- Those undergoing medical treatment for illness
- Frail and elderly Muslims
- Women who are menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding
- People travelling from place to place
What happens if you break the fast?
There are very limited valid reasons for breaking the fast. Acceptable reasons include:
- Becoming sick and unable to fast (if you are expected to recover, you must make the fasting days back when your health returns, but if you are terminally ill then you do not need to fast but must pay Fidya instead)
- Setting off on a journey (if you set off on a journey in order to avoid fasting, this is not a valid reason and you must pay Kaffarah)
- Menstruation begins (it is not permissible for a woman to fast whilst menstruating and as such she should make the days back at a later date or pay Fidya)
- A woman becomes pregnant or begins breastfeeding (similar to menstruation, women who are breastfeeding or pregnant and cannot fast make the days back like the sick do, or pay Fidya)
If you break the fast and the reason is not listed above, it is not a valid reason and you must pay Kaffarah. If the reason is valid, you must pay Fidya.
What is Fidya?
Fidya is payable when you are unable to fast or have to break the fast for an acceptable reason. If you are required to pay Fidya, you may either make back the missed 30 days of fasting throughout the year, or you can pay the Fidya rate. The rate of Fidya may change year on year, but it is usually below £5.
The rate of Fidya is enough to pay for one person to eat on each day of Ramadan. For example, if the rate of Fidya is set at £5 and you are required to pay Fidya from missed/broken fasts, you will be required to pay £150 so that one person can eat throughout the month of Ramadan, or so that 30 people can enjoy one meal during Ramadan.
What is Kaffarah?
Breaking the fast intentionally for an invalid reason means you must pay Kaffarah, and Kaffarah is based on Fidya but it is doubled. In terms of making up the days, you must make back 60 days of fasting as opposed to 30 days. If you choose to pay Kaffarah rather than fast, you must pay double the amount of Fidya. This means if 30 days of Fidya is set at £150, your Kaffarah amount is £300.
Ramadan Fast Facts
Now we’ve gone through the basic facts of Ramadan, here are some more quick facts.
- Dates are traditionally eaten to break the fast
- Suhoor is the meal eaten before sunrise
- Iftar is the meal eaten after the sun sets
- Donating to charity during the last 10 days of Ramadan is said to bring rewards greater than those of 1,000 months
- Ramadan is followed by Eid ul-Fitr celebrations
For further teachings on Ramadan, consult your local Imam.
To donate to Orphans in Need this Ramadan, please head to our donations page where you can make your Fitrana, Fidya or Kaffarah payments, as well as a general donation to support the work of our team around the world.