By Hanaa Gabir

    The 18th of June 2015, was the first day of Ramadan, a holy month to Muslims around the world.

    It’s the 9th month in the Hijiri (Islamic) calendar, which is lunar-based. In the Islamic calendar, it is the year 1436, while it’s 2015 in the Christian calendar. This is the month the holy Quran came down to the prophet Mohamed (PBUH) in the first year of the Islamic calendar. Ramadan is one of the five pillars (duties) in Islam.

    During the month, Muslims around the world will fast – withhold themselves from eating, drinking, smoking and performing any sort of sexual intercourse from sunrise till sunset. During Ramadan these activities cease just before Fajer (dawn) prayer. In Melbourne it’s around 06:30 am till Maghrib (sunset) prayer around 05:15 pm, a total of 11 hours.

    Children, chronically ill people (e.g. diabetic people), pregnant women, menstruating women, really elderly and travellers are not obligated to fast. But travellers, pregnant and menstruating women are obligated to make-up the days they haven’t fasted.

    In Islam, Muslims pray the five obligatory prayers which are: Fajer (just before sunrise), Duhur (noon), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (sunset) and Isha (early night). During Ramadan, Muslims recite the Quran more often than usual, pray the obligatory prayers as well as Taraweeh, which is only during Ramadan, with the Isha. It is believed that the last 10 nights of this month are the most sacred days, which is why some people choose to spend them in mosques – they sleep and stay there without going home, so as to spend more time worshipping God, whose name is Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala).

    Ramadan is a test of patience in refraining from evil actions, evil thoughts and bad words. It is a test to demonstrate submission to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), and a way to keep the mind and body focused on good deeds and attaining self-discipline. It allows you to feel what people in need who don’t even have anything to eat and drink feel, so you can donate and give them some of your wealth -it’s obligatory to donate 2.5% of your wealth or income to the people in need.

    Ramadan also has a lot of health benefits. A study has been conducted that found fasting lowers the bad LDL cholesterol level by 8%, triglyceride by 30% and increases the good HDL cholesterol level by 14.3%, thereby protecting you from cardiovascular disease. It’s also the best time to help you give up bad habits and addictions, e.g. smoking. By giving your body a break all day from smoking and only smoking at night, you reduce the amount of toxins you take in, until you hopefully give it up.

    Every year Ramadan comes 11 days early. The exact timing of Ramadan depends on the sighting of the moon and this differs from country to country. Ramadan is 29-30 days, the beginning and the end is decided by the shape of the crescent moon using the human’s naked eye. Once the crescent moon is visible again, it is the end of Ramadan.

    Then comes Eid-Ul-Fitr, which is celebrated for 3 continuous days. On the first day, all Muslims go to pray the Eid prayer at the mosque in the morning and then meet up with their families, relatives, friends and loved ones to have breakfast (or other meals) and celebrate.

    I would like to wish all the Australian Muslims an enjoyable month, a great feast and a happy Eid.

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