Good Morning Dear Malaysians!
Last Thursday, the holiest month in Islam, Bulan Ramadan has started. In Malaysia, we have more than 55 percent of our population practices Islam, that means almost half of the people in the country are fasting from sunrise to sunset for these 30 days. Whether you’re a practising Muslim or a non-Muslim, here’s a refresher about the everything we must know about Ramadan.
What is Ramadan?
Long long ago… on the Laylat Al Qadr, the 27th night of Ramadan which also known as the “Night of Power,” Prophet Muhammad received revelations from God. Those revelations were collected to create the Quran.
Following that night, Muslims observe a 30-day fast once a year, where they practice self-restraint. Ramadan begins and ends with the sighting of the new moon.
In Islam, there are Five Pillars: Shahada, Salah, Zakat, Sawm and Hajj. These are the mandatories that Muslims must fulfil. Sawn is the ritual fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Why Muslims Fast?
Like mentioned above, fasting during Ramadan is obligatory. To refrain from basic needs like food and water serves as a reminder of what those less fortunate typically experience. In addition, fasting brings the believers closer to the God. During Ramadan, Muslims spend more time than usual reading the Quran and praying at mosques.
During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, profane language, gossip and to try to get along with fellow Muslims better. Tradition says anyone who successfully completes the fast is wiped clean of all sins.
Does Everyone Fast?
12 hours without food and water for continuously 30 days is very challenging. Therefore, some groups of people are not allowed to perform the fasting. These include children before puberty, those with a medical condition such as diabetes, elderly people, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Observing fasts is not permitted for menstruating women. Travellers on long journeys are exempted from fasting too.
For those who can, like travellers or menstruating women, they are encouraged to make up the days missed soon after Ramadan. For those who can’t fast at all, they can make contributions to charity or give food to the poor.
How is a typical day like during Ramadan?
Muslims start the fasting after the morning prayer at dawn. Therefore, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims wake up well before dawn to prepare the Suhur, the first meal of the day that has to sustain until sunset. After the morning prayer, as the sun rises, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual activity.
Muslims are not supposed to be excused from work or school or any other normal duties during Ramadan. However, in many Muslim countries, like Malaysia, schools and some businesses may reduce their hours. For the most part, though, the working hours remain as usual.
When the sun finally sets, in the case of Malaysia, is usually after the evening prayer, Muslims break the day’s fast with iftar (a.k.a. Buka Puasa), which is often a communal meal. In Malaysia, a lot of F&B outlets run special promotions for Buka Puasa. Furthermore, many politicians and corporates organize free buffet for Buka Puasa.
Can a Non-Muslim Practice Ramadan?
It is totally ok for anyone to observe fasting and refrain from bad habits (smoking, violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, profane language, gossip) during Ramadan. In fact, it is a good opportunity to do a full body, physical and mind cleanse whether you’re a Muslim or not. The practice of fasting also doesn’t have any conflict with other religions.
Besides the benefits that you would gain from fasting, you would also understand more about your Muslim friends.
However, if you’re planning to fast, and it’s your first time, please make sure your health condition allows you to do so before you start. Chat with your Muslim friends to ask for advice. They are veterans in fasting, they will teach you how to go through it.
If you can’t commit to it, you can still join your friends’ Buka Puasa dinner and wish them “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem” sincerely.
Malaysia is a multicultural country. We must respect all the differences between each other and empower everyone in the country. Have a comprehensive understanding towards each other’s cultures is the key! Let’s build a strong nation that cherishes the peaceful coexistence.
Meanwhile, TopNotch wishes Ramadan Kareem to all Muslims.