The Benefit of the Ramadan Fast for Muslims

The lessons learned during Ramadan should last throughout the whole year

An Middle Eastern Culture family break the fast during Ramadan.
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Ramadan is a period of fasting, reflection, devotion, generosity, and sacrifice observed by Muslims around the world. While major holidays of other faiths are sometimes criticized for become largely secularized, commercialized events, Ramadan retains its intense spiritual meaning for Muslims worldwide. 

The word "Ramadan" comes from the Arabic root word for "parched thirst" and "sun-baked ground." The is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who spend the month in fasting. It is in sharp contrast to other holidays that are marked by heavy indulgence in food and drink of all kinds. Muslims also abstain from the use of tobacco and sexual relations when observing Ramadan. 

Timing of Ramadan

Ramadan comprises the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and its most notable ritual is the dawn to dusk fasting practiced for each day of the month, which is done to memorialize the first revelation of the Quran from Allah to the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). Observing Ramadan is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam for believers.

Because the dates of Ramadan are set according to the new crescent moon and are based on a lunar calendar, it moves around in relation to the Gregorian calendar, which is fixed based on the solar year that is 11 to 12 days longer than the lunar year. Hence, the month of Ramadan moves forward by about 11 days each year when viewed according to the Gregorian calendar. 

Exceptions Made

While all adults who are healthy and able are expected to follow the fast during Ramadan, elderly people, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, or those traveling may exempt themselves from the fast in order to protect their health. These individuals may, however, practice a limited form of the fast, and may follow the other observances of Ramadan, including practicing acts of charity. 

Ramadan Is by Nature a Time of Sacrifice

The personal sacrifice that is at the core of Ramadan plays out in many ways for Muslims: 

  • Through fasting, a Muslim experiences hunger and thirst, and sympathizes with those in the world who have little to eat every day.
  • Through increased devotion, Muslims feel closer to their Creator and recognize that everything we have in this life is a blessing from Him.
  • Through increased charity, Muslims develop feelings of generosity and goodwill toward others. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said, "A man's wealth is never diminished by charity."
  • Through self-control, a Muslim practices good manners, good speech, and good habits.
  • Through changing their routines, Muslims have a chance to establish more healthy lifestyle habits—particularly with regards to diet and smoking.
  • Through family and community gatherings, Muslims strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, in their own communities, and throughout the world.

The Impact of Ramadan for Muslims

Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims, but the feelings and lessons experienced carry on throughout the year. In the Quran, Muslims are commanded to fast so that they may "learn self-restraint" (Quran 2:183). This restraint and devotion is especially felt during Ramadan, but Muslims are expected to strive to make those feelings and attitudes stay carry over during their "normal" lives. That is the true goal and test of Ramadan.

May Allah accept our fasting, forgive our sins, and guide us all to the Straight Path. May Allah bless us all during Ramadan, and throughout the year, with His forgiveness, mercy, and peace, and bring us all closer to Him and to each other.