Ramadan, the 9th lunar month on the Islamic calendar, should begin this year at dusk on Friday August 21.
Whether visiting the Middle East or driving through Dearborn, Michigan, one may observe a festival like atmosphere during the night time.
Restaurants are packed, hookah cafes are full, bakeries are open 24/7 and colorful lights and banners hang from some businesses. This carvinal like spirit or party atmosphere, however, has nothing to do with the Islamic faith and the religious emphasis of Ramadan. This is cultural expression that is in some ways antithetical to the purpose of Ramadan.
Ramadan is not a party month. Its importance is based upon the Qur’an and prophetic traditions as follows:
1) Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed upon the heart of Prophet Muhammad (SAAS). Some narrations even state that the Scrolls of Abraham, the Torah given to Moses, the Psalms given to David and the Gospels given to Jesus the Messiah were all revealed during Ramadan. Muslims strive to read the entire Qur’an during Ramadan.
2) In Ramadan, there is a night in which the Qur’an was revealed, Laylah Al-Qadr, in which G’d says is better than 1,000 months. Many Muslims believe that this night falls on the 27th night although the majority of Muslims believe that it can be on any odd night within the last 10 nights of Ramadan. Muslims, who practice their religion, attempt to stay up as long as they can this night in devotion to G’d.
3) Ramadan is the month of fasting, giving up food, drink and lawful sexual relations from dawn to dusk. Fasting instills discipline and brings about natural empathy for the poor and destitute, who lack sufficient food and water.
4) Ramadan is the month of giving extra attention to refraining from anti-social conversations such as gossip, back biting and deceptive speech.
5) Ramadan is the month of charitable giving to the poor, mentally challenged and orphans.
6) Ramadan is the month of showing mercy in general and increasing good deeds for the benefit of others.
Ramadan was not a party time during the era of the Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) and the earlier pious generations of Muslims. Outside of making a living, they spent their time in prayer, religious learning and charitable donation.
Did the Prophet (SAAS) break his fast with large meals and an array of sweets? No! He (SAAS) broke his fast with 3 dates and some water. These days, many Muslims actually gain weight during the month of the fast, which is almost sacrilegious. In fact, the Prophet (SAAS) taught us not to eat until we are full (stuffed). Over-eating actually is consuming food that could be used to alleviate hunger for another person. The other extreme is to make things unlawful during Ramadan that are not unlawful or to give up unlawful items just for Ramadan to return to them immediately after it.
One example is those people who say that they will give up music during Ramadan, even stating that it is unlawful doutside Ramadan. What is clearly unlawful during Ramadan would be clearly unlawful outside of Ramadan as well. If the music is lawful and decent outside of Ramadan, then it is lawful during Ramadan. If a Muslim, however, is going to give up listening to 50 Cent or Lil Wayne during Ramadan on the basis that their lyrics are repugnant and promoting un-Islamic behavior, the ban should extend past Ramadan.
The same holds true for Muslims that smoke marijuana or patronize “gentlemen’s clubs” outside of Ramadan, or Muslim merchants that increase their charitable donating during Ramadan from money that is earned unlawfully or illegally (ex. selling pornography, alcohol, lottery & drug paraphernalia).