Ramadan is not a holy day. It is a holy month. It is the ninth month of the Hijra calendar which is the Muslim calendar, and it is most holy among the four holy months. Ramadan is believed to be the month in which the Qur’an was gifted from heaven serving as guidance for all the people, a means of Salvation and a declaration of direction. Here are ten facts about Ramadan which you probably didn’t know.
I. It's not just ‘no eating,’ it’s ‘no drinking’ too. Muslims do not drink even a drop of water right from dawn till dusk. In addition to not drinking or eating anything all day, they also refrain themselves from stuff like sex and cigarettes. However, despite the fasting, in most Muslim countries Ramadan is an interesting blend of celebration and austerity. While abstaining from many things during daytime, families and friends often visit with one other after sunset, and fill the streets of major cities with food and laughter till the wee hours.
II. A date is traditionally the first thing consumed to infringe the fast. This is followed by either juice or jallab, which is a sweet drink made from rose water, dates and carob. This is usually served along with raisins and floating pine nuts. Dates, in Egypt, are harvested in various farms and oases across the country, and also imported from the Arabian Gulf states and North Africa. The best dates are often assigned catchy names by their respective vendors to enable them to market them. After the Israel's war against Lebanon in 2006, the best dates were called Hassan Nasrallah, named after the leader of Lebanon's Hizballah. After the U.S. President made a visit to Cairo in 2009, the best dates were named Obama. This year, the most exclusive dates are called Martyrs of the Revolution. Another favorite is Tahrir Square.
III. It isn’t unusual to have religious baby names across any faith. However, when devout Catholics decide to reflect their faith in their child's name, they often go the way of a virtue, like Grace or the way of a saint, like Mary. You'd be very lucky to find a baby named Lent. This is not the case with Ramadan, as this religious observance has also settled itself as a common name for baby Muslim boys. While the name was a more popular as a choice in the '90s than it is now, Ramadan may well be making a comeback. The popularity of the name has been steadily climbing since 2005.
IV. The holy month of Ramadan obligates Muslims to refrain themselves from drinking and eating from sunrise till sunset each day. For the most part, this is considered to be an unbreakable rule. However, there are certain instances in which one may take leave of the fast. According to the holy Qur'an, sick people, elderly people, traveling people, pregnant or breast-feeding women, as well as children under the required age of puberty, can skip the fasting if it will negatively affect their health. In addition to this, a fast can become invalid due to reasons such as menstruation or postpartum bleeding, intentional vomiting and, of course, infringing a fast to eat or drink. In all of these cases, the Qur'an requires that the followers take a qada fast. This refers to fasting one day for each lost, to make up for the skipped days of fasting.
V. After fasting throughout the day, the Sunni Muslims can break their fast immediately after the daily maghrib prayer begins, which is when the sun is no longer seen on the horizon, even if the sky is bright. The Shi'ites wait a little longer, preaching that their fast cannot be infringed until and unless the last rays of light have vanished from the sky. Of course, regional variations may apply in both branches of Islam. This, however, is not an absolute distinction.
VI. Ramadan is based upon the lunar calendar and starts off with the Hilal. This is the Arabic word for new moon or crescent, which occurs in the ninth month of each year. But Ramadan falls earlier and earlier each year because the lunar cycle constantly moves backward as compared to the Gregorian calendar. During the months of summer, the days last much longer and are hotter, making fasting increasingly difficult. Late in the holy month, Muslims celebrate what is called the Night of Power or Laylat al-Qadr. This is the anniversary of the night in which Allah revealed the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad for the first. While various traditions celebrate this particular night during the last 10 days of Ramadan, the 27th night is believed to be most widely celebrated date, when the Qur'an says that the grand night is superior to a thousand months.
VII. Ramadan is an eagerly anticipated, prime-time TV season. Turkish and Arabic production houses work all round the year to create a short 30 episode miniseries, each one pertaining to a night of the month of the festival, in the hopes of attracting viewer’s attention. They advertise dollars and create the opportunity to boast that their series was the most popular. However, this year the things aren't as good. According to Al-Riyadh, a Saudi newspaper, production is down by 35% thanks to the Arab Spring turmoil.
VIII. Fasting has been prevailing for much, much longer than Islam. Mentions of abstention from drink and food can be located in the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible, both of which precede the Prophet Muhammad, who was born in A.D. 570. In the New Testament, Jesus fasts for 40 days in the desert, which results in certain Christian denominations observing Lenten fasts to this day. In one instance found in the Bible, Queen Esther requests the Jews to fast for three whole days before she visits her husband, to request the king not to kill them. The fasting itself is also unlike in Ramadan, in that Muslim observers can theoretically consume each day, they just can't eat anything during the daylight hours.
IX. In spite of the daily fasting, Ramadan is known for being a month of increasing weight gain. There are many reasons why practicing Muslims often gain weight instead of losing weight during this time. The important thing is that fasting and low activity levels during the day often result in binge eating at night. Slower metabolic cycles are thus observed in such behavior and it results in making the body store fat instead of removing it. In addition to this, Iftar meals, the evening meal served when Muslims infringe the fast, are traditionally heavy. They are rich in carbohydrates and lack in nutritional sustenance. For maintaining a healthy weight throughout the month, Muslims are advised to drink plenty of water, eat a diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables and rich in protein, and wake up every morning for the Suhoor.
X. A significant rise is seen in the donations to charities is seen during the month of Ramadan. This is because many Muslims decide to donate their charity for the year during this holy month. Free Iftar meals are offered to the poor every evening in Mosques and religious organizations. It also occurs commonly among the wealthier Muslims to donate to the poor families Ramadan baskets or bags which contain basic cooking items like rice, oil, sugar, and tea before the first day of this month.