“O you who believe, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (Quran Surahtul Al- Baqara: Verse 183).
This was the very first instruction from Allah [God] to all believers to observe Sawm in the Quran.
Fasting is not just associated with the Islamic faith; Christians also observed period of 40days fasting mentioned in the Bible.
Other faiths like Buddhism, Judaism, Jainism and Hinduism also observe a period of fast.
It has been three weeks since I joined over one billion Muslims all over the world in the observation of Sawm in the month of Ramadan.
Every Ramadan begins with the sighting of the crescent, why? Because it was mentioned in the Quran and Hadiths [Hadiths are the recording of the action, words and approvals of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him)]
“They asked you about the crescents. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in the affairs of men and for pilgrimage” (TMQ 2: 189)
“Whoever witnesses the crescent of the month, he must fast the month” (TMQ 2: 185)
[TMQ is the Translated Meaning of Qur’an, commonly used after Quran attached with relevant chapter (Surah) and verse (ayat) numbers]
Sawm is the Arabic term for fasting, not Ramadan, and it is the fourth out the five pillars of Islam.
A lot of Muslims and non-Muslims refer to Sawm as Ramadan but in actual sense, Ramadan is actually the ninth month of the at-taqwīm al-hijrī, [the Hijri calendar] or the lunar calendar used by Muslims. It is in this month that Sawm is observed.
Just like the Gregorian calendar the Hijri calendar has 12 months, with 354 or 355 days.
This year’s Ramadan, which is Ramadan1440 started on Monday, May 6 2019.
For me and a lot of Muslims, Ramadan is a month of reflection, spiritual growth and self-improvement, as regards one’s behaviour to other people, oneself and Allah.
It is also a month of mercy, forgiveness and one of re-establishing solidarity among the Muslim community, solidarity derived from the shared period of hunger and thirst, and to further push them to the remembrance of Allah.
It is also a way to come in solidarity with the millions of poor people who cannot afford a four square meal.
Sawn in Arabic means to refrain.
Muslims in observing Sawm are required to refrain from food, water, smoking, sexual intercourse, using foul language, backbiting, drinking, and intentional vomiting.
Children, the elderly, people who are travelling, pregnant women, people suffering from chronic illness are excused from fasting but they are required to make up the fasting later or compensate the hungry in proportion to the fast they would have missed.
Growing up, somewhere around the time I was in primary school, my mom would wake my little brother and I up to eat suhoor but we were only required to fast from morning till 12 pm that is how most of the kids here in Ghana are ushered into fasting, then, it was easy.
But after, you were required to fast from morning till after sun setting and that is where most of us used to eat in between the stipulated time, go home pretentiously and wait for Iftar, may Allah forgive us all.
Suhoor is a vital part of fasting.
It is the pre-dawn meal taken around 4:00 AM. It is a compulsory instruction by Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him) that Muslims are required to eat a healthy Suhoor, in order to remain in good shape, have enough energy to go about the rest of their day.
Iftar is the second meal of the day for Muslims; you can call Iftar a communal meal. Muslims during Iftar break their fast, in groups and give free food and fruits to their neighbours whether they are Muslims or not. There is always plenty of food to go around because of the blessing that comes with sharing food and breaking fast together.
I break my fast in Adabraka with a small group of Muslims; I am not related to them but we share the same faith of Islam. I leave the office around 5: 55 pm walk to the front of a shop where we all gather at a table, chit chat, make hot tea with ginger and lime wait for the call of prayer and break our fast with dates, fruit and a hot tea.
Just like me a lot of Muslims look forward to Ramadan, the first week is usually the easiest week for me but I forge through the rest of the weeks because Ramadan is very special to me.
Last 10 days of Ramadan
The last 10 days of Ramadan is a big deal for every Muslim because in these 10 days there is a special night call the Laylatul Qadr. It is the night of power, the night of decree, where angels descend from heaven. It is a night where out of faith and sincerity, past sins are forgiven and a night where the destiny of a Muslim is written for the coming year.
What makes this night special is the fact that Muslims don’t know or are not told on what night out of the 10 days it will fall but Muslims are informed that it falls on an odd night that is on the 21st, 23rd , 25th 27th or the 29th day of Ramadan.
In as much as Ramadan is about refraining from food, it is also very much about food.
Amongst the food Ghanaian Muslims break their fast with includes hot tea, kooko with Maasa, koose and Pinkaso, Sobolo[Bissap], Date fruit, Fruits, grilled meat and chicken and many others.
This year’s Ramadan would end in the first week of June, which would be marked by the celebration of Eid ul Fitr, a celebration a lot of Muslims and even non-Muslims look forward to.
My colleagues at work have already started asking me for their ‘Sallah’ food and meat.
This is because, there is plenty of merrymaking, plenty of food shared between Muslims and non-Muslim, street carnival with a display of cultural riches in various neighbourhoods. It is simply a time to share and have fun.
Ramadan Kareem brothers and sisters, May Allah see us through these last days and may we get the full benefits of the night of decree.
May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon You.