LGB&T Muslims celebrate Ramadan

Publish Date: 20/07/2012

Ramadan, What does this mean?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It's when Muslims all over the world spend 30 days observing fast and bettering themselves in principles of faith. Observing fast, or fasting, is when a person abstains (or keeps away) from eating and drinking. Ramadan  begins on Friday 20th July depending on the sighting of the new moon. The month usually lasts for 29 to 30 days and again this is determined by the sighting of the next new moon.

What, you don't eat or drink anything for a month?

Some people believe Muslims do not eat for the whole month of Ramadan. Muslims only abstain from food and drink from sunrise until sunset. Food and drink is allowed otherwise. The reason Muslims fast is to discipline their body and mind. The absence of food and drink and other pleasures provides a perfect opportunity to concentrate on prayer and worship. Not having the luxuries of life to hand makes it easier to reflect on life and be grateful for what we do have. Muslims use this month to start afresh and give their life a new direction. Many Muslims use Ramadan to make resolutions, similar to New Year's resolutions. It is a time when they decide how they want to live their life for the next year and try their very best to adhere to their new commitments.

Commitments...?

Yes, like greater commitment to God and faith. Ramadan is a time when Muslims can introduce practices into their life to reflect their religious identity. A lot of Muslims have a desire to pray more and learn more about Islam. Others wish to be better and nicer people while some want to learn the Qur’an to better their understanding of the Holy Book. For these people, Ramadan is the best opportunity to begin this grand affair with something so personal and spiritually enlightening.

What else do Muslims do in Ramadan?

Well, aside from fasting, they pray more. Muslims should pray five times a day anyway and go to the mosque but many find this difficult so Ramadan helps them to fulfill these practices and in many cases, stick to them long after Ramadan is over. Muslims also read the Qur'an more and understand and share their religious teachings. They also learn to abstain from bad habits and minor and major sins and hopefully continue with the effort when Ramadan is over too.

During the Month of Ramadan Muslims are encouraged to give more to charity, ask anyone they have upset to forgive them, be kind and caring towards everyone and ensure they do not upset anyone.

Apart from food and drink is there anything else you cannot do while fasting?

Yes whilst fasting Muslims must abstain from all sexual contact, smoking, bad manners, excessive shopping or watching the television etc. Muslims should try to live very basic lives and any money which is spent on excessive food, clothes etc should be given to the poor.

When does the fast begin and end?

The fast begins just before dawn when Muslims eat a light meal (suhoor) and confirm their intention to fast for the day. The fast ends at sunset when the call to prayer (Adhan) is announced. Eating a date or some water are the recommended and most popular methods of concluding the fast. The time when the fast ends is known as 'Iftar'.

Because Islam is not a culture, there is no restriction on what is eaten by Muslims provided it is prepared in the halal manner. Quite obviously, pork and alcohol are not allowed. Recommended food items for Muslims include dates, milk, water, honey, olives and figs - all for their nutritional properties and religious significance. With regards to main meals, anything from fish and chips and spag bol to curries and couscous is allowed.

In Ramadan many families come together to open their fast and invite guests including Non Muslims to share food and join in the blessings. Those who are fasting should eat in moderation and limit eating heavy foods; they shouldn't really eat all they missed once the fast is over as this defeats the whole objective of the fast. When breaking the fast (or having breakfast just before the fast begins), they should simply have the meal they would on any other day. It is permissible to have a more elaborate feast if one is hosting a 'Iftar' meal (opening of the fast) for guests as this is considered a good and noble act.

Ramadan is about thinking about the less fortunate and needy although in a lesser degree to improving one's own character over the blessed month. Not eating and drinking does encourage Muslims do recognise how the poverty-stricken and starving people in the world must bear the burden of daily life and this is why, in Ramadan, many Muslims donate more to charities and why mosques collect more so that people right across the world can have better life and those who donate can gain greater regard for well intentioned actions.

Does everyone have to fast?

No. Young children are encouraged to learn about fasting but fasting is only obligatory (a must) for anyone beyond adolescence. Muslims who have medical conditions such as Diabetes, HIV, heart disease etc that prevent or make fasting difficult, those who are not of sound mind or are going through a pregnancy or menstruation cycle as well as those who are too young or too old do not have to fast. In some circumstances, individuals who cannot fast for any number of reasons may make up the fast at a later date.

If someone is excused from fasting they must still observe the other practices such as charity giving, being kind to everyone praying etc.

What is Eid?

Eid is the celebration which begins once the month of fasting is over and the new moon has been sighted. Eid is a day where the whole Muslim community begin the day with prayers at their local mosque and by giving a set amount of money which goes to the poor so they are able to celebrate Eid too.

Everyone wears new clothes and huge feasts are cooked and shared with everyone in the community. Children and Adults share presents and the day is full of joy and happiness and an opportunity to thank God (Allah) for everything that has been provided for us.

Lastly….It is the duty of every Muslim to love and care for everyone around them despite what religion or belief they have. Ramadhan is about self awareness and understanding we are all different but we all deserve to be loved, cared and respected.

Ramadhan is a month of love and care and an opportunity to share this with everyone Muslim and non Muslim alike.

A time for new beginnings and the start of a journey which makes you a better human being.

 

LGB&T Muslim Support

Imaan is a social support group for Muslim lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, those questioning their sexuality or gender identity and their friends and supporters. They now meet regularly in Manchester too. www.imaan.org.uk

Al-Fatiha is agroup dedicated to Muslims from all different cultural and ethnic backgrounds who are LGB&T, intersex, queer, questioning or exploring their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. www.al-fatiha.org

Safra Project is for lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender women who identify as Muslim religiously, and/or culturally. The word Safra is related to the words for ‘journey’ and discovery’ in  languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. www.safraproject.org