The life of a Tukkie student often involves resisting the array of temptations laid out in the cafeteria and other grazing areas on campus. Now, imagine not eating all day. And not drinking. And not smoking. 

Each year, Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between sunrise and sunset in a month of fasting known as Ramadan.

But there is much more to this period than rescheduling lunch.

“Ramadan is a time where Muslims reflect on what God has given us,” says Ismaeel Kadwa, a member of the Muslim Students’ Association of UP.

As one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, Ramadan is obligatory for Muslims. For them, it is a period of introspection and heightened spirituality. By resisting hunger, thirst and other desires or “lower impulses”, the “higher self” is in more control. Spiritual devotions and prayers take place five times throughout the day. Recitations of the Qur’anare also often observed in mosques and homes.

Children are exempted from fasting before puberty. Adults are exempted in certain cases too. This includes the elderly, those whose health will be negatively affected, travelers under certain circumstances, pregnant women, nursing mothers and women who are menstruating. However, people in these situations are required to make up for days missed by fasting for additional days. Alternatively, for each day a meal is not missed, one can provide a meal, or the value thereof, to the poor.

The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar is especially significant as it marks the time around the “Night of Power”. This is the night when the Qur’an is believed to have been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It is generally taken to fall on the 27th day of Ramadan, although the exact date is uncertain. 

Because the lunar calendar is approximately 11 days shorter than the solar or Western calendar, the dates of Ramadan differ each year. Last year Ramadan fell between 21 August and 20 of September. This year, however, Ramadan is observed from 10 August to 9 September. In summer, Ramadan is considered more challenging, as the days are longer.

Although relatively strenuous and testing, Ramadan is greatly enjoyed in a social sense where families and friends gather to feast at night. The festival of the breaking of the fast,‘Id al fitr (pronounced eed-al-fitr), marks the end of Ramadan.This can stretch between one and three days and is considered a public holiday in some countries.

As one can imagine, fasting in this manner takes a great deal of self-control and self-discipline. But Ebrahim notes that as they have fasted so many times before, it isn’t that difficult.

 Perhaps it is safe to say that with spiritual self-purification and growth as rewards, it is well worth resisting those Chelsea buns.


* Perdeby would like to wish all its Muslim readers Ramadan Mubarak.

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