To my fellow non-Muslim readers out there, Ramadan is here! It is a month where we spiritually seek Allah, our God, by practicing the fourth pillar of Islam which is fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
Ramadan occurs according to the Islamic calendar on the ninth month of every Hijri year and lasts 29 to 30 days based on the sighting of the crescent moon. It is a spiritual journey where we not only fast as worship, but also religiously meditate through extensive prayers, or Taraweeh. This happens throughout the entirety of Ramadan for multiplied religious rewards, or Hasanat.
We also practice intermittent fasting. For those who do not know what intermittent fasting is; it is when adult Muslims abstain from consuming energy intakes, including water, and abstain from eating and drinking from dawn, before the Fajr prayer, to sunset, after the Maghreb prayer.
We also do not consume anything that requires passing through the throat such as smoking or taking medicine. As much as possible, we simply avoid all bad deeds and abstain from sexual relations.
However, those of us who are pregnant, menstruating, diabetic, chronically ill, or on a long trip can choose not to fast so they can avoid dehydration or anything worse.
So, what is our daily routine for the holiest month of the year and what is the vibe like during Ramadan?
Moreover, we strive to devote ourselves to Allah during the day by being pure-hearted through reading Quran and praying on time. More importantly, we give special attention to those who are less-fortunate than us. The aim of doing so for an entire month is a form of heightened devotion to God who dictates in the Quran, that Ramadan is a time of self-reflection. The latter is applied through spiritual devotion and worship which results in self-discipline and self-control. This in turn teaches us a lot about the meaning of sacrifice.
We fast during Ramadan not just because of the health benefits that fasting has for the human body, but because it is a spiritual form of getting closer to Allah and asking him for forgiveness. We do this as an attempt to outweigh the bad deeds we may have committed in the past. Through doing good deeds, we are promised a greater reward, especially during the last 10 days of the month. Those days contain The Night of Destiny, otherwise known as Laylat Al Qadr.
Laylat Al Qadr is a holy night where we extensively pray with all of our hearts to God in order to cleanse our souls. After all, Laylat Al Qadr is better than a thousand months of praying, according to the Quran. The Quarn states that this holy night is the best time perform nightly prayers to Allah in addition to the five obligatory prayers. This practice is called Tahajjud.
Tahajjud is where we devote the late hours of the night to Allah through praying and asking God to help us become better versions of ourselves. It is said that God descends all the way to the nearest of the seven skies and lends his ear to the praying Muslims who chose to perform nightly Taraweeh prayers and resisted the temptation of slumber in order to supplicate.
He listens attentively as we ask for our deepest, most sought desires and wishes to come true. This time of the night is sacred and provides us with a better chance of having our prayers answered. This collective practice occurs in mosques and it is called Itikaf.
According to Desert News, the purpose of Itikaf is “to disassociate oneself from worldly pursuits altogether for a specified period of time and devote oneself completely to the pursuit of God.” In other words, it is a spiritual journey towards self-fulfillment.
Ramadan brings about a feeling of togetherness, similar to that of a Christmas Eve! Families unite together and race against the clock to prepare the Iftar table during the evening, strengthening their bonds as they cook, clean and get ready while the sun is setting for the Maghreb prayer.
We break our fast according to the Sunnah that advises us to take an odd amount of dates, up to five dates usually, and consume homemade sweets.
Our Muslim families spend this time hydrating and nourishing themselves while making small talk and watching exclusive TV shows that air only during Ramadan. For those who did not have the chance of sharing an Iftar table with their families, they spend this time with roommates, friends, and loved ones. Some talk to their family members on video calls while having their Iftar as well.
We usually take a small power nap afterwards so we are up and running by the time the Imam announces the Isha’ prayer. This is when we start our nightly prayers, Taraweeh, together at the mosque. Taraweeh prayers can last up to eight Raka’ats, kneeling, based on how many prayers we are willing to perform.
As for our daily meals, most Muslim families choose to have a full course dinner meal after the Iftar so they can sleep through Suhoor. This latter is the pre-dawn meal that we consume before the Fajr prayer and it consists of a light snack like yogurt and dinner leftovers. Some prefer fruits, but I personally eat junk food at this time of night before I get ready for the Fajr prayer. Others prefer to delay dinner until Suhoor so that they don’t sleep until the early hours of the morning.
Ramadan ends with Eid Al-Fitr, a religious holiday celebrating the end of this holy month and through family kinship. Our tradition requires us to buy new clothes for children and give them money to celebrate what we Moroccans call the “small Eid”. The “big Eid” is Eid Al-Adha, and that is a story for another day…