Page 1: Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims worldwide Page 2: Ramadan, restrictions in New Zealand under Covid-19
RAMADAN, the fasting month for Muslims worldwide, is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar cal- endar, each month being twenty- nine or thirty days depending on the physical eye-sighting of the new crescent born today. The new crescent will be sought at sunset today Thursday 23rd April. As the moon will only be a few hours old, it is expected that the first day of Ramadan will not be tomorrow but Saturday 25th April.
Ramadan is a month of spiritual renewal and individual transformation, which adherents strive to maintain throughout the year; an annual refresher in self-restraint and discipline, strengthening relationships through fostering one’s personal relationship with the Divine. During Ramadan, Muslims reset their priorities and reflect on the Qur’ānic question: “Where, then, are you going?”. It is a time to review one’s direction in life in a state of self-discipline, inward calm and clarity, and heightened mindfulness of God—as well as in selfless dedication to others.
Fasting, a central feature of Ramadan, is the religious obligation of all healthy adult Muslims, and is similar to the fasting traditions of many other faiths. It seeks to substitute consumption for deeper self-discipline and gratitude to God for the abundance of His blessings; for providing long life and good health, and for helping us to provide for those in need. It fosters empathy and compassion for those requiring food, clothing and shelter, and helps us foster generosity and solidarity with the most vulnerable and deprived.
Fasting involves abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual activity from dawn until sunset, which in New Zealand this year lasts about 12 hours from approximately 5:30am to about 5:30pm (days will shorten as the month progresses). Night prayers, reading and reflecting on the Holy Qur’ān, and an increase in the practice of one’s faith are features of the holy month of Ramadan. Physical restraint complements a mental and spiritual reset—a ‘detox’ of mind, body and soul. Ultimately, fasting is the fasting of the heart from all inward ills: from arrogance and envy to slander and self- ishness. Divine reward is reserved for each individual’s Divinely-witnessed sacrifice. The ultimate aim is an intimate relationship with the Divine.
Employers may consider working arrangements such as an early start and early finish or other basic practices such as working through lunch to return home for fast-breaking. Fulfilment of the duty entrusted to employees by employers remains a spiritual concern in this spiritual month. Colleagues may trial abstinence for individual benefit or in solidarity for a cause or the needy, or for the health benefits of fasting. Fast-breaking time is the culmination of the spiritual day: the mo- ments before fast-break are for reflection and supplication to God. Dates, nuts and fruits are the common snacks for fast-breaking.
Ramadan ends with the annual festival of Eid, which includes prayers and a sermon followed by celebrations. As with the start of Ramadan, the day of Eid depends on the sighting of the new crescent, which will be sought at sunset on 23rd May, and if the new crescent sighted Eid will be on 24th, or otherwise Monday 25th May. Eid celebrations* will continue over the weekend. Ra- madan is a season of commitment, compassion, sharing and celebration.
This season of Ramadan is one of commitment, compassion, sharing and celebration — and now more than ever, human solidarity.
*COVID-19 restrictions will mean a very different Ramadan this year, as mosques remain closed, resulting in the continued cancellations of all congregational prayers including cancellation of Ra- madan night prayers at all mosques and Islamic centres, all communal fast-breaking and all com- munal activities.
In addition, the annual festival of Eid, like Friday prayers, can only be formed in congregation, so there will quite probably be no Eid prayers able to be performed this year depending on govern- ment restrictions. Nevertheless Muslims believe that they will continue to receive the same or even greater reward as if all these prayers were performed, in addition to the great reward for complying with religious obligations to uphold safety and restrictions in the interests of the country’s overall health. This is based on foundational objective of the Islamic Shariah which is the preservation of life.
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Notes supplied by Aarif Rasheed, former trustee of the Religious Diversity Centre Enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org