What is Ramadan? Why do Muslims fast? We’ve got all the answers to the questions you’ve always wanted to ask.
Ramadan marks the start of a month of fasting for millions of Muslims all around the world. In 2023, it begins on 22 March and ends at sundown on 21 April. As Singapore is a melting pot of cultures, it gives us opportunities to learn about different festivals and holidays such as Pongal, Hungry Ghost Festival, Chinese New Year and Thaipusam, just to name a few. So if you’re a Ramadan rookie, here’s our guide to everything you need to know about the sacred month in Singapore.
Everything you need to know about Ramadan in Singapore
1. What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It’s believed to be the holiest month of the year. This is a month of fasting, which is one of the five pillars of Islam (others include daily prayer and charity).
2. Who fasts?
Any able-bodied Muslim is obligated to fast, excluding anyone who’s elderly, pregnant, menstruating or ill.
3. Why do Muslims fast?
Muslims fast as an act of devotion and dedication to Allah. It’s a commitment to the purification of the soul. Fasting teaches self-restraint from earthly pleasures and discipline of the body and mind. It’s about having empathy for the less fortunate too. During this month, charity and giving back also take centre stage.
4. How does fasting work?
In brief, it’s a dawn-to-dusk fast. Muslims begin the day with a pre-dawn meal (referred to as sahur in Malay, and suhoor in Arabic) before fasting. And it’s not just about abstaining from food or drinks. The idea of self-restraint from earthly pleasures includes giving up smoking, engaging in sexual activity and refraining from gossip, anger, greed and lust.
At sunset, Muslim break fast over iftar. Traditionally, the best way to do this is over dates, followed by a prayer before the main meal begins.
5. How do you support Muslim friends during Ramadan?
Just go about your usual routine and try not to offer them snacks or drinks during the day. It’s okay to be curious, but be as respectful as you can. We’d recommend doing just a little research before asking easily Google-able questions. And before you even ask, yes, it’s true: fasting includes going without water.
If you don’t see your Muslim friends fasting, try not to probe either. There are a number of reasons for this including illness, pregnancy or menstruation. Faith is a deeply personal thing, and it’s not something everyone’s comfortable discussing. If you plan to catch up with Muslim friends during this month, schedule dinner meet-ups instead of brunch or lunch.
6. What are some Ramadan traditions that take place?
Feasts with family and friends
Ramadan is a time for strengthening bonds and reconnecting with loved ones. Top on the list of priorities during this month? Coming home to buka puasa (which means break fast in Malay) and pray with your family. Friends also make plans in advance to meet over dinner. If you’re going out to feast after a day of fasting, check out our guide to special Ramadan menus, halal buffets, and an epic list of the best halal restaurants, cafes and bakeries in Singapore.
Also referred to as tarawih, this refers to optional nightly prayers. These are prayed in at least eight, 12 or 20 rakat, which refers to units of prayers.
Hari Raya 2023 light-up
The much-anticipated light-up dazzles the streets of Geylang Serai once again this month when the annual Ramadan bazaar opens. Head over to Changi Road, Geylang Road and Sims Avenue to admire the beautiful sight and mingle with the crowds for festive vibes!
We’re psyched for the epic Kampong Gelam Ramadan Bazaar! Time to enjoy shopping sprees during this festive month from 15 March to 16 April. Eat your way through 86 stalls along Baghdad and Kandahar streets, which will be lined with food trucks and outdoor grills doling out satay, seafood, snacks and trendy tidbits. Next, browse through retail booths for fashion, arts and crafts, before you hit up the entertainment stage for music and dance. From Fridays to Sundays, you’ll be treated to projection lighting on the facade of the Masjid Sultan, while Fridays and Saturdays offer aerial light showcases with drone-controlled LED kites.
Other Ramadan bazaars to check out include the iconic Geylang Serai one (17 March to 21 April) with 700 stalls offering food, drinks, and all the shopping you can do to your heart’s content.
7. What happens at the end of Ramadan?
Hari Raya Puasa (also referred to as Aidilfitri or Eid) is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan. But it’s not – as commonly mistaken – a Muslim new year. It’s about forgiveness and food. On the morning of Hari Raya Puasa (22 April), Muslims awake early for prayers before celebrations kick off. Everyone dresses in their traditional best to visit families and friends, and seek forgiveness from elders. Working adults give green packets of money to the young or elderly. And feasting happens – a lot. Homes are also decorated for a lovely, festive feel!
There you have it; the answers to your questions about Ramadan in Singapore.