By Aynur Jafarova
The Caucasus Muslims Office has issued a fatwa on the start of the holy month of Ramadan. According to the fatwa, the first day of Ramadan falls on July 10 according to the Gregorian calendar and the night of intention on July 9.
The Ramadan holiday will be marked on August 8 or 9 by the Gregorian calendar as well.
The Caucasus Muslims Office jointly with the Shamakhi Astrophysical Observatory has prepared a special table and a note with the indication of the start and end of fasting for each day, and calls on Muslims to follow this table.
The meaning of Ramadan
Blessed Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, begins in the whole Muslim world. Every year, during this month, Muslims spend the daylight hours in a complete fast and abstain from food, drinks and other needs. As a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God and practice self-sacrifice, Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking, it is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God and self-control. Muslims are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance.
The holy Koran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad during this month. Thus, according to the Koran, Muhammad first received revelations during the lunar month of Ramadan. Therefore, the month of Ramadan is considered to be the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar. The actual night that the Koran was revealed is a night known as Lailat ul-Qadr (the night of power).
The Ramadan dates differ, moving forward approximately ten days every year. The Islamic lunar calendar, which is 11 to 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, migrates throughout the seasons. Thus, since Ramadan begins on January 20 or 21 this year, next year it will begin on January 9 or 10.
Fasting: from dawn to sunset
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of the Islam religion and one of the main types of Islamic worship. It is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning thankfulness and appreciation for all of God's bounties.
Fasting is an act of compliance and obedience to God as well as amends for sins, faults and mistakes. During Ramadan, Muslims ask God for forgiveness for the sins made in the past, pray for guidance and assistance in abstaining from everyday troubles.
Therefore, fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the total commitment of the person's body and soul to the spirit of the fast. Ramadan is a time to practice self-restraint, to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and re-focus oneself on the worship of God.
During Ramadan, every part of the body should be restrained - the tongue from backbiting and gossip, the eyes from looking at unlawful things, the hand from touching or taking anything that does not belong to it, the ears from listening to idle talk or obscene words and the feet from going to sinful places. This way, every part of the body is fasting.
Fasting promotes detoxification and resolution of inflammatory processes as well as drying up of abnormal fluid accumulations, gives the digestive system a much-needed rest, quiets allergic reactions, including asthma and hay fever, corrects high blood pressure without drugs, makes it easy to overcome bad habits and addictions such as tobacco and alcohol, rapidly dissipates the craving for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and other substances.
Furthermore, fasting clears the skin and whitens the eyes, and restores taste appreciation for wholesome natural foods. It is the perfect gateway to a healthy diet and lifestyle. Going on a fast gives you the motivation and enthusiasm to make a fresh start. Fasting initiates rapid weight loss with little or no hunger. Most people are surprised at how little desire for food they have while fasting.
Muslims start fasting when they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. Exemptions to fasting are travel, menstruation, severe illness, pregnancy, and breast-feeding.
Each day before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called suhoor. After stopping a short time before dawn, Muslims begin the first prayer of the day, the Fajr prayer. At sunset, families hasten for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar.
In the evening, dates are usually the first food to break the fast; according to tradition, Muhammad broke the fast with three dates. Afterwards, Muslims generally adjourn for the Maghrib prayer, the fourth of the five daily prayers, after which the main meal is served. Water is usually the beverage of choice.
Iftar is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities.
The fasting phase finishes upon the sighting of the next new moon, which takes place after 30 days.
The Muslim holiday Eid ul-Fitr (festivity of breaking the fast) marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month called Shawwal in Arabic. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions.
Ramadan conveys the sense of emotional enthusiasm and religious eagerness among Muslims. Ramadan highlights Muslim brotherhood and customs and brings about a special feeling of closeness.
So, may you have a happy Ramadan and patience in this holy month!