Ramadan's upon us, that month where it seems as if Muslims in Sri Lanka (and probably elsewhere) seemingly disappear off the face of social events and anything happening for a while. Instead, you get posts about porridge, dates (the only dates some of us will ever get, sob), and lots of mysterious all-nighters and late mornings sleeping in.
But what exactly is Ramadan?
It's the ninth month in the Arabic calendar. As in, literally the name of the month (like how there are Sinahala names for the 12 months as well (Duruthu, Navam, Medin, etc).
It's a holy month for those of the Islamic faith, and fasting is one of the five Pillars of Islam — pretty much a mandatory thing for every healthy and capable Muslim, where you abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk. It's believed that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during the latter end of the month, which is why it's considered holy. While the exact date of the Revelation is unknown, Muslims believe that it's on one of the nights towards the end of the month. That particular night is known as Laylatul Qadr, or the Night of Power.
The Quran legit has a whole Surah (Chapter) dedicated to the night. It's pretty short, and states that the Night of Power is better than a thousand nights.
What does this mean to Muslims?
That this night is blessed, and all your good deeds will be hyper-multiplied. Basically, that the more good you do, more points to you and higher the chances to get to heaven are. Also, great time to repent for past sins.
So fasting, prayers, reciting, and charity play dominant roles during this period as Muslims race to make up for everything they did over the last year and wipe their slates clean.
What's the Point of Fasting?
To practice self-discipline, sacrifice, and reconnect to your spiritual side as you distance yourself from material needs. Think of it as meditation, where you're supposed to go through daily life but abstain from cravings. It's also meant to serve as a reminder of privilege as you experience what it is like to not have food: and to make you more sympathetic/ empathetic and be more helpful and kind to people who have less than you.
Basically celebrates the end of the month of fasting, and the arrival of the next month. It has the status of a religious holiday, and has special morning prayers particular to the Eid day alone.
It's a time spent with family, lots of visiting, and more family. Little kids get monetary gifts (called Eidi), while elderly family uncles and aunties (or grandparents) get cloth (kaftans, sarongs, shirts).
Biryani and watalappam makes the rounds, and everyone's suddenly your best friend as they casually enquire about the food.
We hope we've covered the gist of what Ramadan's all about. If you've got any questions, hit us up in the comments. We have a few more pieces coming up too.
In the meantime, Ramadan Kareem, and have a blessed month ahead!