Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Hijri (lunar) calendar. Each new month of the calendar begins when the new moon is sighted, which lasts for 29 days. This means a year is 354 days, and why Ramadan starts approximately 11 days earlier each year when the new moon is sighted.
During the month of Ramadan it is believed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received a visit from the Archangel Gabriel, who revealed the 114 surahs of the Quaran. This is why it is a month devoted to the Muslim faith; it is also
believed that during the month of Ramadan all your sins can be burnt away, if you are devout.
Every day during this blessed month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours. It is a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice, Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking.
Muslims are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance. We are to make peace with those who have wronged us, strengthen ties with family and friends, do away with bad habits and essentially clean up our lives, our thoughts, and our feelings. The Arabic word for “fasting” (sawm) literally means “to refrain” – and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts, and words.
During Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from looking at unlawful things. The hand must not touch or take anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In such a way, every part of the body observes the fast. 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; a time to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and re-focus one’s self on the worship of God.
During the Holy month of Ramadan you will probably see that most hotels and restaurants are serving a sunset buffet called Iftar, but what is Iftar? The word means breakfast or more precisely breaking the fast, and is the first meal to be served once the sun has set following the day light hours of fasting. There are many traditional foods eaten at this time and it is nice to join one of the hotel sunset buffets to experience the joys of a traditional Iftar.
Typically the meal starts with a healthy drink of milk infused with fresh dates. The main course consists of a lavish feast of mashi – which are various vegetables like courgettes, peppers, and aubergines stuffed with meat and rice, a meat goulash, rice with noodles, potatoes sliced and cooked with tomatoes and onions, salad, and torshi – mixed pickeles. Save room for some sweets as these are always plentiful during Iftar, you will find such delicacies like Konafa – shredded wheat with nuts or cream drenched in honey syrup, Kataef – mini pancakes stuffed with nuts, deep fried and served with syrup, and Khoshaf a dried fruit desert made from apricots, prunes, or dried figs. Some hotels will follow the tradition of serving for the first 10 days white meat dishes, then red meat dishes, with the final 10 days fish. The time of Iftar changes very slightly throughout the month following the change in time of the sunset.
For more information on Islam and Ramadan you may wish to visit one of the cities Islamic sights El Mustapha Mosque (one of the Prophet Mohamed’s names (PBUH)). The Mosque has stunning architecture and an extensive library of books in various languages teaching Islam.