Ready, set, Ramadan! Everything you need to know: Point Of View

There are a few simple things that Islanders can do as a community for Muslims during this month of Ramadan — like waiting until after sunset for dinner parties to which Muslim friends are invited.

An Island practising Muslim shares his take on Ramadan

Resisting temptation to eat and drinking during the long daylight hours of Ramadan shows restraint, says Omair Imtiaz. (CBC)

It's officially Ramadan for almost 1.9 billion Muslims around the world and the holy month marks a chance for all — including those who live on P.E.I. — to disconnect from the material world for 30 days and seek a deeper spiritual connection with God.

There are a few simple things that we can do as an Island community for Muslims during this month. One can say "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Happy Ramadan." If you're planning to host an iftar party for an evening meal or inviting a Muslim to dinner, just plan to have it after the sun sets.

A heads up, though — feelings of gratitude and thankfulness may ensue as a result of your awareness.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and moves back by about 11 days each year.

Special prayers called Taraweeh and Tahajjud are held every night and last late into the night during Ramadan. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Marking the end of Ramadan is Eid al-Fitr, or "festival of breaking the fast," in which Muslims celebrate the accomplishment of their 30-day fast with a special morning prayer, exchanging gifts, thanksgiving, and a feast.

Fasting is called Sawm in Arabic, which means to abstain or restrain oneself. During this time, Muslims not only abstain from food and drink, but also from negative emotions and conduct such as anger, jealousy, backbiting, lying, as well as abstaining from bodily pleasures.

Fasting from dawn to dusk

Fasting is one of the main components of Ramadan. Those who can't abstain from food and drink because they're too young or too old, travelling, pregnant, ill or for other reasons are encouraged to adhere to the other aspects like contemplation, reciting and studying the Qur'an, remembering God and partaking in the blessings that the month has to offer.

Muslims can eat and drink as usual after the sun sets during Ramadan. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Muslims are encouraged to go about their day as normal during the fast, unless they have a job that is particularly physically demanding.

Fasting starts from Fajr, or morning prayer, until Maghrib, which occurs right after the sun sets. This means that on the first day of Ramadan, Island Muslims will fast from about 3:50 a.m. until about 8:40 p.m. Each day the time changes slightly as the sunrise and sunset times change.

Special prayers called Taraweeh and Tahajjud are held every night and last late into the night. Special focus is given on the odd-numbered nights of the last ten days of Ramadan.

Most Muslims will wake up well before the morning prayer to have an early morning meal called suhur. The evening meal, called futoor or iftar, is when they break their fast. Dates and water are the top food choices for breaking the fast.

Giving to charity

During the month of Ramadan, Masjid Dar As Salaam — one of the local mosques in P.E.I. — will host weekly potluck dinners. Often, neighbours and friends are invited to experience Islam, diverse cultural food and togetherness at these weekly gatherings. 

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan in which Muslims celebrate the accomplishment of their 30-day fast with a special morning prayer, gifts and food. (CBC)

Fasting is a crucial part of Ramadan because it helps to develop a sense of awareness of how fortunate we all are and a sense of appreciation for something as simple as a glass of water. The act of fasting promotes discipline, compassion, and immense love for God and humanity.

Muslims work on becoming better people and better followers of the faith by creating positive change in their lives and communities. That's why the Muslim community does its part to contribute by giving charity and feeding the poor through initiatives such as the Ramadan food basket drive.

This year the Muslim Society of P.E.I. will initiate its 6th annual drive. Non-perishable food items may be dropped off at the mosque at 15 MacAleer Drive. Cash donations are welcome and will be used to purchase fresh fruit, vegetables and meat for those less fortunate. 

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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Omair Imtiaz was born and raised in Dubai. He moved to the Maritimes in 2007 to further his education in biology and health care. He volunteers with various outreach programs to fundraise for cancer research and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. His interests include bringing people together, social justice and inclusion. His hobbies include cycling, kayaking, photography, travelling and exploring the Island.