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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Ramadan mubarak! The importance of Islam's holiest month


Sarah Jimenez, Miriam Matin and Ndumbeh Boye serve a variety of food, including macaroni and cheese and braised chicken, to students during Ramadan in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Monday, April 3, 2023. The UNC Muslim Student Association collaborated with Chef Jimenez to provide food for those breaking their fast after dusk.

This month, billions of Muslims worldwide celebrate Ramadan, which is one of the sacred months on the Islamic calendar. 

During these 29 to 30 days, depending on the phase of the moon, Muslims abstain from food or drinks from sunrise to sunset. As one of the pillars of Islam, as ordained in the Holy Quran, Muslims actively seek to enrich their relationship with Allah – Arabic for "God." Meanwhile, fasting serves as a testament to Muslims’ steadfast worship and loyalty to him. 

But what makes Ramadan and its hallmark practice of fasting so significant?  

This holiday is more than just fasting – it is a month centered around growing spirituality. Ramadan is the month when the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It’s the commemoration of being Muslim and following what Allah has instructed. 

Ramadan consists of practicing self-control and patience, with the overarching goal being to be a better person who is more aware of their relationship with Allah. Think of it like a camp where the training can be challenging, but a whole community is pursuing a spiritual journey. 

UNC students Abdulrahman Sarsour, Wafa Anwar, Sahra Arifi and Nabeel Rahman eat a delicious meal provided by the Muslim Student Organization during Ramadan in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Monday, April 3, 2023. The MSA worked alongside Chef Sarah Jimenez to provide food for those breaking their fast after dusk.

Fasting reminds people how blessed they are to have things that might be considered indispensable and promote empathy for impoverished people. The idea is once you take away something that one usually takes for granted, it opens the possibility for one to reflect on their purpose and attitude towards life. Also, this holiday emphasizes donating zakat, or charity, to the less fortunate. In the Islamic faith, Muslims have a duty to share their wealth with those poverty-stricken due to the belief that everything they have is because of Allah. 

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said in a hadith, “He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while his neighbor goes hungry.” This message would echo for centuries after, as Muslims are expected to express generosity and care for one another as one of their many acts of righteousness.

Ramadan represents the cleaning of the mind, body and soul and attaining closeness with God; fasting is one way Muslims demonstrate their faithfulness. However, you can be exempt from fasting if you are a prepubescent child, not able-bodied or ill, pregnant or breastfeeding, menstruating or traveling. Muslims have the opportunity to make up for the missed days and or are encouraged to donate zakat, if possible.

When fasting during Ramadan, it is advised that, at first light, Muslims consume a breakfast-like meal in preparation for fasting, known as a suhur. Toward the end of daylight, Muslims break their fast with water or milk, if not dates, followed by a full dinner, known as an iftar. During these times, eating foods high in nutrition and fiber is recommended to help you stay hydrated throughout the day. 

Grilled meat such as chicken or lamb kabobs marinated in spices along with rice is a familiar meal among many Muslim communities. The specific foods eaten before and after fast may differ based on region and culture, as well as personal preference.

Once the 30-some days have finished, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a celebration of spiritual rebirth. This is three days of morning prayer at the mosque, quality time spent with family and friends and sweet delicacies. Eid al-Fitr marks a time when many communities come together to appreciate the practice of fasting and encourage unity amongst themselves. 

For me, every Ramadan has been a joyous time to spend with loved ones. The aroma of home-cooked dishes completely galvanizes all my senses. The strengthening of relationships through a shared experience has created a sense of togetherness and has curated a colorful mosaic of my fasting experience. Not only do I deepen my connection to my faith, but also with those around me. Ramadan symbolizes when I step back and appreciate all that life is and how grateful I am for everything I have.

Miriam Matin serves mac and cheese to a student during Ramadan in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Monday, April 3, 2023. The Muslim Student Organization provides food for those breaking their fast after dusk.

The significance of fasting in Ramadan cannot be exaggerated, as it is a practice that emphasizes personal growth and development that many people around the world pursue. So, remember to respect those practicing it this season, and Ramadan mubarak!


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