Along with the first sighting of this month’s crescent moon comes the period anticipated by Muslims worldwide: Ramadan, which begins today, August 1st. Marking the final month of the Islamic solar calendar, Ramadan is a time for peace, reflection and fasting. Unless you practice the Muslim religion, chances are you may not know much about the holiday. Here are a few basic food- and drink-related facts you should know about Ramadan.
Myth: Ramadan requires complete fasting for 30 days.
Fact: While the holiday does require Muslims to fast — the fast is also known as sawm — it is only done during the daylight hours. Many Muslims practice suhoor and iftar, or eating before the sun rises and after the sun sets.
Myth: Muslims fast because the religion says so.
Fact: While fasting is the fourth pillar of Islam, there is a lot more to Ramadan than just abstaining from food and drink. Ramadan is a time for prayer, reflecting upon the religion, cleansing the spirit, remembering others who are in poverty and spending time with family and friends. Ramadan is considered the holiest time of the year.
Myth: Everybody fasts — no matter what.
Fact: While the religion calls for fasting during this time, not everybody is required to participate. This includes young children, seniors, pregnant women, diabetics and others with medical needs. If possible, a person is expected to make up the lost time when they are able.
Myth: Ramadan falls at the same time every year.
Fact: A common practice in other religions, Ramadan actually takes place at a different time every year. This is due to the Islamic solar calendar, which follows the phases of the moon. During the ninth and final month of the year, the first crescent moon begins the holiday. This is also known as Hilal.
Myth: Ramadan requires Muslims to only abstain from food and drink.
Fact: There are several types of fasting. While some people abstain from food and drink, others additionally cut out everything that can distract them from their religious devotion. This can include listening to music, watching TV, sex and smoking. Many Muslims also read the entire Qur’an during this time.
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