For most of the Muslim world Ramadan began today. For those of us in North Africa, it begins this evening with the sighting of the crescent moon.
What is Ramadan?
The Arabic root S-L-M means peace. Peace is that which comes about from surrendering to the will of the divine. Call the divine whatever name you choose, if you surrender to it, you are more likely to find peace. That is the point of Islam and every other religion.
The word Islam, i-S-L-a-M, is derivative of this root and thus means the act of finding peace
through self surrender to the divine. Muslim or m-u-S-L-i-M is also derivative and is the term used for a person who has found peace through surrender to the divine.
It is important to understand this especially today when the original meanings of these words have been obscured by extremists, fear mongers, and ignorant people of all stripes. No matter what your faith, if you are a person who submits yourself to the will of the divine, you will find peace.
And that is what the month of fasting, Ramadan, is all about. I wrote an artcile recently about Ramadan in Morocco which discusses the origin of Ramadan. If you missed it you can read it at
Ramadan begins with the first sighting of the crescent moon during the ninth month. The Islamic calendar is based upon the moon rather than the sun as the Gregorian calendar is based. Since it is based on sightability, this is a great place to begin to think about this concept of submitting to the will of the divine.
We must wait for the hand of God to reveal the start of this incredibly holy month. Man cannot predict this with any certainty.Once the crescent moon is sighted, Ramadan begins at sunset the next day. It is a month of fasting, in which Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking from sunrise until sunset.
Fasting is meant to teach patience, modesty and spirituality. Rama??n is a time to fast for the sake of the divine and to acknowledge God more than usual. It is a time to ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and to learn that we are better than we know through self-restraint and good deeds.
Historically, Ramadan is seen as the time that the angel Gabriel revealed The Quran to the
Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) and also the time when the Muslims of Medina defeated the animists of Mecca.
A Note on Fasting Safely
Fasting can be extremely dangerous. Before beginning a fast be sure to clear it with your doctor. The Quran recommends that certain people do not fast. These include pregnant women, small children, and those with medical conditions. These include diabetics and those who are suffering from nutritional deficiencies or are of a low body weight.
So, in my family for instance. Since my wife gave birth to our daughter this morning, she will not be fasting this year. Our infant will not be fasting. I, however, will be fasting.
Since I’m not a very traditional type of Muslim, I will also be looking at ways to make this spiritual journey more meaningful. I will share those ideas and thoughts with you each day and whether you are fasting or not, I hope the lessons I am taking will also be of benefit to you, whatever your faith.
And I hope we can talk about these things together.