Ramadhan and Food

August 28, 2009
Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان‎, pronounced: /rɑmɑd̪ˤɑːn/) (also written Ramazan, Ramzan, Ramadhan, Ramdan, Ramadaan) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until sunset [1] Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramaḍān is a time for Muslims to fast for the sake of God (Arabic: الله‎, Allāh), and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramaḍān, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds. As compared to solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary, moving forward about ten days each year. Ramadhan was the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed[Qur'an 2:185] to the Prophet Muhammad.

The name "Ramaḍāma" had been the name of the ninth month in the Arab world long before the arrival of Islam; the word itself derived from an Arabic root rmḍ, as in words like "ramiḍa" or "ar-ramaḍ" denoting intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of rations. In the Qu'ran, God proclaims that "fasting has been written down (as obligatory) upon you, as it was upon those before you". According to the earliest hadith, this refers to the Jewish practice of fasting on Yom Kippur.

The most prominent event of this month is fasting. Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world get up before dawn to eat Sahur, the pre-dawn meal, then they perform the fajr prayer. They have to stop eating and drinking before the call for prayer starts until the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib. Muslims may continue to eat and drink after the sun has set until the next morning's fajr prayer call. Then the process starts all over.

Ramadan is a time of reflecting and worshipping God. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual thoughts and activities during fasting hours are also forbidden.[Qur'an 2:187] Purity of both thoughts and actions is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised awareness of closeness to God.
Fanoos Ramadan, Cairo
Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey in Ramaḍān (the writing with lights called mahya)

The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control , sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity. However, a certain level of self-control can be lost by those who suffer from eating disorders.

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