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. This year, it begins on 13 April and ends on 12 May. We’re lucky that Singapore is a melting pot of cultures. It gives us opportunities to learn about different festivals and holidays such as Pongal, Hungry Ghost Festival 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 Singapore.
Guide to 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 make plans in advance to meet and feast.
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 light-up
Folks can still look forward to the iconic light installations and decor along Geylang Road and Sims Avenue from 9 April to 23 May.
All month long, you’ll find Ramadan bazaars across the island. Endless rows of stalls offer Malay and Middle Eastern eats alongside contemporary, Instagram-driven hipster creations. But due to the Covid-19 climate, Geylang Serai will be taking its bazaar online from 9 April to 13 May with a new digital platform featuring food and lifestyle experiences.
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, 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.