How is Ramadan observed - Dialogue with the Islamic World

Ramadan 2020: "You are prescribed to fast"


From Thursday, a good number of the nearly five million Muslims in Germany will fast for around four weeks - if the corona pandemic allows it. The fasting month of Ramadan lasts until May 23rd this year. Five questions and answers about Ramadan:

Ramadan - what does that actually mean?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Its name comes from Arabic. It is derived from the root "ramida" and stands for "burning heat and dryness". According to Islamic belief, the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed that month. Devout Muslims fast in Ramadan. The "burning heat" should not refer to the time of year, but to the feeling in the stomach of the fasting person. Fasting ("Saum") belongs to the creed ("Shahada"), the five times daily prayer ("Salat"), the alms tax ("Zakat") and the pilgrimage to Mecca ("Hajj") to the five so-called pillars of the Islam.

To whom does the law of fasting apply, and what does a devout Muslim have to observe?

The fasting requirement applies to all Muslims who have reached religious maturity, which corresponds to the age of around 14 years. Verses 183 to 185 of sura 2 are authoritative. This passage from the Koran begins with the words: "Believers! It is prescribed for you to fast, just as it was prescribed for those who lived before you." Between the onset of dawn and sunset, Muslims are prohibited from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse. Fasting is ended every day with the "Iftar", the common dinner. If necessary, special prayers ("tarawih") follow. Ramadan is followed by the three-day festival of breaking the fast, in Arabic "Id al Fitr". In Turkish the festival is called "ramazan bayram" ("Ramadan festival"). Children, the elderly, the sick, pregnant women and travelers are exempt from fasting.

Why does Ramadan shift from year to year?

Unlike the Gregorian calendar used in the West, the Islamic calendar calculation is based on the moon and not on the sun. Accordingly, the year only has around 354 and not 365 days. So it happens that Ramadan always lasts around 30 days, but moves forward by around 11 days every year.

How do Muslims view Ramadan today?

The month of fasting has a high priority in the Islamic faith, but at the same time offers material for controversy - also within the Muslim community. It starts with his appointment, which is not uniform due to different calculation bases. In Germany, the major Islamic associations have been following the guidelines of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since 2008.

Muslims who live in Scandinavia on the Arctic Circle orient themselves in summer, when the sun is practically not going to set, mostly to the times in the Saudi Arabian Mecca or Turkey.

It is unclear how the fasting month will look like this year in view of the Corona crisis. The Islamic scholar Abdel-Hakim Ourghi. even called in advance to postpone Ramadan. The fast can be rescheduled later because there is a risk that the virus will weaken the health of the fasting person.

Regardless, many Muslims perceive Lent as a time of purification. But cutting out food and water during the day doesn't seem to be good for everyone. According to media reports, accidents in the household and in traffic were increasing in Saudi Arabia at this time because people are tired and over-stimulated.

The historian and consumer researcher Frank Trentmann has observed a commercialization of evening fasting in recent years. After sunset in Ramadan, the shopping malls in Islamic countries are particularly well attended.

Fasting - does it also exist in other religions?

Fasting is not a unique selling point of Islam. In Christianity, Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The memory of the death and resurrection of Jesus is said to be preceded by 40 days of repentance and purification. In the past, people also fasted in the weeks before Christmas, during Advent, in order to prepare for the feast of the birth of Jesus. This is still widespread in the Orthodox churches today.

The Jews know several days of fasting, the most important of which is Yom Kippur in September or October. The tradition probably goes back to the time of the Jewish people in exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC.

Buddhists also know several days of fasting, including the Vesakh festival on the first full moon day in May or June. Then the birth, death and enlightenment of the Buddha are commemorated.

An extreme form of fasting is the so-called Prayopavesa in Hinduism. In this ritual, death is accepted through the complete renunciation of food. According to Hindu doctrine, the Prayopavesa is only reserved for people who no longer have any obligations or wishes for life. Experts compare this practice to fasting for the terminally ill. (KNA)