By Sophia Waterfield
Muslims around the world are preparing themselves for the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Ramadan marks a month of fasting, introspection, prayer, and celebration.
When is Ramadan?
Determining the start of Ramadan is dependent on a physical sighting of a new moon. According to the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, the crescent of Ramadan should be observed after the sunset of the 29th day of Sha’ban, which is the month preceding Ramadan. If the moon is not sighted then Ramadan starts after 30 days of Sha’ban.
This year, Ramadan will start on May 5 and will end on June 4 in the United States.
Daytime fasting for Ramadan starts and ends at different times and runs for different lengths across the world due to sunrise and sunset being governed by latitude.
The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the lengths of fasts around the world, with New Yorkers having to refrain from food and drink for over 16 hours a day during Ramadan.
Norway Muslims have to fast for the longest globally, while Muslims in Melbourne fast for the least time Statista
Why Do Muslims Fast During Ramadan?
Ramadan is all about introspection, prayer and reading of the Koran. The practice of self-restraint is in keeping with “?awm,” which means “to refrain” in Arabic, one of the Pillars of Islam.
Many people interpret ?awm as meaning to fast, but it also can mean to refrain from sexual activity and immoral behaviour such as impure or unkind thoughts. This happens between dawn and dusk throughout Ramadan.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, ?awm can be invalidated by breaking fast at the wrong time. However, the lost day can be made up with an extra day of fasting.
There are also exceptions to the fasting rule. For any Muslim that falls ill during the month or who needs to travel, volunteering, performing righteous works or feeding the poor can be undertaken instead. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, the elderly or anyone who is suffering from mental illness can also be exempt from fasting.
How Long Does Ramadan Last?
The holy month lasts 30 days and nights. Its end is very much determined the same way as its beginning; by sighting the new moon. The month that succeeds Ramadan is called Shawwal.
At the end of Ramadan is a celebration known as Eid al-Fitr, which takes place during the first three days of Shawwal. During this time, official or private parties are held, with the giving of presents, as well as visiting of relatives’ graves.
Is Ramadan a Federal Holiday?
The holy month of fasting is not recognized as a national holiday in the United States, so many stores and restaurants will remain open. However, for Muslims who own their own businesses, there might be exceptions with reduced opening hours.
Some companies might also support employees who observe Ramadan. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for religious practices that don’t cause an undue hardship on the company.”
Some accommodations they mention include:
* Adjusting work hours to help employees’ dehydration;
* Offer light-duty jobs or job swaps for those who are fasting;
* Allow flexible breaks;
* Offer a place for prayer;
* Find a spot where fasters can nap during breaks because fasting makes some people tired; and
* Let people use vacation days during Ramadan and especially during Eid al-Fitr.