The Meaning Of Ramadan
What is Ramadan, when is it, and why do we fast during Ramadan?
Falling in the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, Ramadan is the holiest month of the year in Islamic culture. For Muslims, it is a time of reflection and spiritual growth, a moment to spend time with loved ones and help those less fortunate than themselves.
The sacred month of Ramadan was marked when Allah sent an angel to Prophet Muhammad to reveal the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in 610 AD. This day is known as Laylat Al-Qadar in Arabic or the Night of Power.
When is Ramadan, and what is it?
The exact date for Ramadan changes slightly every year as it is based on the lunar calendar. The start of Ramadan is based on when the Islamic leaders see the new crescent moon. However, Muslims will wait for the new moon to appear before officially announcing the first day of Ramadan, which will usually last between 29 and 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle. This year Ramadan is predicted to start on Saturday, April 2nd in the UK, ending on Sunday, May 1st, with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr.
Why do we fast during Ramadan?
Around the world, Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset during daylight hours for the whole month of Ramadan and abstain from other personal pleasures such as smoking.
By doing so, Muslims aim to become closer to Allah and their families while also growing spiritually, using the time for reflection and unity. The time is spent praying, reciting the Quran, and doing good deeds. These may include spending time with loved ones and donating to charity. During this time, Muslims will also try to abstain from bad habits such as lying, fighting, and gossiping.
Fasting is essential during Ramadan because it brings Muslims closer to Allah and devotes themselves to their faith, but they also learn patience and compassion during this time. The period is considered to nourish your soul rather than your physical body.
Most Muslims will wake before sunrise and eat a light meal known as suhoor, as well as drinking plenty of water at this time as, along with food, drinking is not allowed during daylight hours during Ramadan.
After the sun has set, the day’s fast is broken with water and dates, followed by prayers and the iftar meal.
Ramadan around the world
While the principles of Ramadan remain the same across the globe, many countries have their traditions.
In many countries across the Middle East, cannons are fired daily to signal the end of the day's fast. The tradition, known as Midfa al iftar, is thought to have originated in Egypt over 200 years ago when the Ottoman ruler Khosh Qadam accidentally fired a cannon while testing it at sunset. The sound travelled through all of Cairo, with many citizens thanking him for his innovation. It was a made tradition at the behest of his daughter Haja Fatma. After an invasion of Lebanon in 1983, during which cannons were confiscated. It is feared that the practice was lost, but luckily, it was revived by the Lebanese Army after the war ended.
Across Indonesia, Muslims conduct different rituals to 'cleanse' themselves before the start of Ramadan. For Javanese Muslims, this is known as Padusan. They will plunge into springs, lakes or swimming pools, soaking their bodies from head to toe.
Drawing comparisons to the Western tradition of Hallowe'en, Haq al Laila takes place on the 15th of Sha'ban, the month before Ramadan. Across several countries in the Gulf, children dress in bright coloured clothes and visit neighbours, gathering sweets and nuts while singing traditional songs. In the UAE, this celebration is considered integral to Emirati national identity.
The end of Ramadan is officially marked by the first sighting of the crescent moon. Still, in South Africa, it must be sighted by the naked eye of the maan kykers (Afrikaans for moon watchers), whom South Africa's Muslim Judicial Council appoints. They stand along the shore at Sea Point Promenade, Three Anchor Bay or atop Signal Hill and only once they have seen the moon will they officially confirm to the community that Eid al-Fitr has begun.
The people of Egypt welcome Ramadan with colourful and intricate lanterns known as Fanous, which symbolise unity and joy. While it is more cultural than religious, this tradition has become strongly associated with Ramadan in the country. During the holy month, children walk the streets with their lanterns, singing and asking for sweets and gifts.
Members of the Roma Muslim community announce the start and end of fasting with traditional songs each day for the duration of Ramadan. They march up and down the streets playing a Llodra, a particular type of homemade cylinder drum.
It is a tradition to break fast during Ramadan with three dates. The intensely sweet fruit is high in fibre, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B-6, making it the perfect energy-boosting food after a day of abstaining. However, alongside this traditional food, many countries also have their own regionally specific delicious meals for iftar.
In Bangladesh, a typical Ramadan meal is Beguni – a dish made of golden battered and fried eggplant slices served over rice.
Keema Samosas are a popular treat – filo pastry triangles are filled with minced mutton and fragrant spices for a delicious and filling meal. Another popular dish is Dahi Vada, lentil dumplings soaked in a spiced yoghurt sauce.
At Ramadan tables across North Africa, a popular dish is Ful Medammes. Similar to hummus in texture, it is made from fava bean puree and flavoured with garlic, olive oil and tahini.
Afghani Bolani is a popular dish in Afghanistan. Like Indian paratha, this stuffed flatbread contains potatoes, onions and herbs and is either baked or fried.
In many Mediterranean countries, the sweet staple of Baklava is enjoyed after sundown. The delicate filo pastry is filled with nuts and honey.
This much loved Egyptian bread pudding’s name meant ‘Mother of Ali’ in Arabic. Made of bread or filo dough, cream, milk, nuts, and cinnamon, it gets a festive update with powdered sugar, coconut flakes and raisins for iftar.
Ramadan Gift Guide
At Rita Farhi, we have everything you need to make sure that Ramadan is a special moment for our customers. From delicious dates to break your fast to our chic advent calendar, there is something for all.
Almond Nougat Luxury Gift Jar
Made with a traditional recipe, our Nougat is lovingly made with all-natural ingredients to create a deliciously chewy, crunchy treat. Presented in a stylish gift jar, our Gourmet Nougat will be a warmly welcomed gift of £17.50.
Belgian Chocolate Coated Nut Filled Medjool Date Gift Box
Break your daily fast with our delicious dates. Our gorgeous Medjool date gift boxes are filled with Belgian chocolate-covered and nut-stuffed dates – the hardest choice belgian chocolate-covered and nut-stuffed dates – the most challenging choice will be which to pick first. Our delectable date gift boxes also include a vegan variety for dairy-free people. £35
Nut Selection Box
Our caramelised mixed nut selection is filled with seven delicious, flavoured nuts. This mouthwatering selection box is filled with moreish high protein snacking, featuring roasted cashew nuts, honey-coated almonds and chilli-sprinkled peanuts. £35
Ramadan Advent Calendar
Our Ramadan Advent calendar is the perfect way to countdown Ramadan. The traditional hexagonal design calendar package is filled with our delicious crunchy hazelnut pralines wrapped in luxury foiling. This advent calendar isn’t just for children. £20.00