When the Crescent moon appeared on 16 May, some 1.6 billion Muslims stopped eating and drinking as Ramadan, the Islamic Holy month of fasting began
‘Sawm’, or ‘Fasting’ is one of the five Pillars of Islam. As part of that, for a whole month, between dawn (Sahoor) and dusk (Iftar) Muslims fast to purify themselves and bring them closer to God.
Misconceptions about Ramadan are rife. This article debunks some of those myths.
Myth 1: Everyone must fast, including children
Untrue. Islam does not require everyone to fast.
The Holy Qur’an, which Muslims believe to be the word of God, says that God intends ease and not hardship. For that reason, if you are ill, have long term sickness such as diabetes, are pregnant or travelling, God exempts you from fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Since children have not reached the age of maturity, they are also not required to fast.
‘Staying hungry is not the achievement’
Myth 2: Muslims don’t eat and drink during the day, but gorge at night instead
Wrong. Overeating between Iftar and Sahoor is bad for one’s health and goes against the purpose of the fast.
Over-eating during Ramadan is not only bad for one’s health, it hinders a person from truly benefiting from the act of fasting itself because it shifts the focus from the all important self-reformation to the least important – eating.
Muslims should have healthy and nutritious meals. Greed and gluttony are to be avoided.
Myth 3: The only abstention in Ramadan is food and drink
Staying hungry is not the achievement. Fasting is fundamentally about recognizing one’s Creator and becoming a better person, not exclusively about depriving oneself of food and water.
Ramadan encourages Muslims to examine their behaviour. It is an opportunity to refocus efforts on enjoining goodness, humility, charity and self-reformation. Even if someone behaves aggressively towards a Muslim, Muslims should not respond in kind. Faced with aggression, Muslims are counselled to remain silent and simply say they are fasting. Islam wants Muslims to fulfill the rights of God through heartfelt, compulsory and voluntary prayers, and recitation and study of the Holy Qur’an. It also requires Muslims to fulfil the rights of all God’s creation, regardless of kin, colour or creed.
Myth 4: Muslims only need to be good in the month of Ramadan
Incorrect. Muslims should stay away from anything bad such as lying or causing discomfort to others and should continue to abstain from wrongful behavior throughout the year. God says in the Holy Qur’an that the most honourable among you in the sight of God is the person who is the most righteous.
The purpose of the teachings of the Qur’an and Islam are to develop righteousness.
‘The word Ramadan literally means two burning coals’
An example of that is honesty. Sometimes worldly gains make people do things that they shouldn’t, stretching the boundaries of morality. Islam provides that everything comes from God. If one accumulates wealth by telling lies, usurping the rights of others or through deceit, such wealth is not a source of good, but instead becomes a source of evil.
During Ramadan, Muslims should try to better themselves in every way possible, ridding themselves of bad habits and trying to adopt new good ones that sustain throughout the year.
Myth 5: If a Muslim eats or drinks something by mistake, the fast has been broken
Not true. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him), the Prophet of Islam is reported to have said that if one eats or drinks in forgetfulness, that person should continue to the fast until the end.
Unless one consciously continues to eat and drink, any food or drink consumed by accident, including accidently taking a gulp of water while swimming doesn’t break the fast.
The word Ramadan literally means two burning coals, which represent a burning love for God and God’s creation. If understood and practised properly, Ramadan can be a spiritual and physical retreat which recharges Muslims and people around them, the whole year round.
Imam Mansoor Ahmad Clarke is part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
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