As most people know, I am Christian, not Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. However, it doesn’t mean that I don’t try to understand the other religions. After all, they live on the planet too. I have lived in a Muslim country twice, and I have Muslim friends. My friends are now sending out the greeting, “Eid Mubarak.” It signifies that Ramadan is finished. One of my Muslim friends told me that when Ramadan is finished, it is like Christmas for Muslims, and at his house, it is time to give out gifts and eat lots of sweets. I learned about Ramadan first when I was a little girl in Morocco, and I have had trouble getting the dates set because it seems they celebrate it at a different time every year, so I asked one of my Muslim friends, and he explained to me why the dates were different. I decided to share with you some of the knowledge I have about Ramadan because many, many people in the world do it, so it is a good thing to understand.
First of all, Ramadan is a month long of fasting that the Muslims do. It isn’t that they don’t eat at all, and it isn’t only food they abstain from. Families wake up early in the morning before sun up and have a big breakfast. For the rest of the day, they aren’t allowed to eat, drink, smoke, or sleep with anyone. When sundown comes, they can do those things. They have a meal in the evening after the sun goes down and a special prayer. They are told that if they pray in the night during the month of Ramadan, then all their previous sins are forgiven. Muslims are actually called to pray five times a day, but this prayer during Ramadan is considered a special prayer. If you live where there are lot of Muslims, you will hear them being called to prayer from a high tower five times a day. When they pray, they must face Mecca. Mecca is the holy city according to the Muslims.
The reason they celebrate this fast/holiday is because the first day is supposed to have been when Mohammed received the Koran. It is commanded in the Koran for them to keep this fast. In every Muslim country, all the Muslims are expected to keep the fast unless they are sick, old, pregnant, nursing, or something like that. If they can’t keep the fast, they are expected to make it up later. If they are traveling, they are not called to fast until they get home. It is mandatory, not voluntary. I have seen Muslims here in Korea who didn’t really want to fast, but because they were around other Muslims felt compelled to fast. Some of them get out of some of the fasting by giving to the poor. It is intended to be a spiritual experience to make them closer to God, and at the end of the fast, they are supposed to declare that God is the supreme God of the world, and there are no other gods.
The date always confused me because they are always celebrating it at different times, so I asked my friend. He said he fasts when the calendar tells him to fast. I looked it up. they use the lunar calendar, the oldest calendar that the Koreans use, and that causes the dates to fluctuate some, but there is more. They are supposed to begin fasting when the first 3/4 moon shows up in the sky. The old wise men get together and watch the moon at night to decide when Ramadan should begin. That is why the time is hard to pin down for those of us watching from the outside. It is not at the same time every year.
When we lived in Morocco, our gardener, Yagoop fasted. He worked outside all day long in the hot sun, and found it really hard. He often went to the water faucet outside. He would say he was hot, and turn the water on and put his head under the water and douse his head and hair completely with water, and while he was at it, he was slyly lapping up the water. They find it hard not to eat or drink all day.
Today, many Muslims are happy because the fast is finished, and now they can have a big party! It doesn’t mean, though, that they are drinking liquor because they are having a party. One of the requirements of Islam is that they don’t drink liquor. They are giving out gifts and eating sweet things today and relieved because the fast is over. I’m glad I am not Muslim. As a Christian, everything I do is voluntary. I am happy to see my Muslim friends finally being able to eat and having a good time!