Ramadan, often pronounced Ramazan, is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. The name is often linked to fasting because Muslims observe strict fasting (sawm) from sunrise to sunset during the month, and it is one of the five pillars of faith in Islam. The word “Ramadan,” some believe, is derived from ramz, “to burn.” Some say the month’s fast is supposed to burn away the sins of mankind. For Muslims, Ramadan is a month of spiritual cleansing and purification in which they try to increase their worship, good deeds, and acts of charity. Ultimately, they seek to cleanse their souls from sin. Muhammad spoke highly of Ramadan saying that during Ramadan, “the gates of Paradise are open, and the gates of hell are shut, and the devils are chained by the leg. And only those who observe it will be permitted to enter at the gate of heaven called Raiyan” (Mishkat, book vii. Ch. 1. pt. 1).
The Quran gives definite instruction for the faithful: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint,” (Quran 2:183). The purpose of the fast is clearly stated: “(He desireth) that ye should complete the period, and that ye should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that peradventure ye may be thankful” (Quran 2:185). So, the goal of the fast is to learn self-restraint, magnify (amplify or heighten) Allah, and be thankful. Muslims believe that fasting serves as a way of submitting to Allah, receiving expiation of sin, receiving answers to prayers, and pleasing Allah.
The month of Ramadan commences at the exact time the new moon appears, shaped as a crescent on the horizon after sunset. That night, Muslims utter their niya, their intent to perform the Ramadan fast. The fast is obligatory for all Muslims. Young children up to the age of 12, and those who are old and infirmed are all exempt from the obligation. The sick, women in an antenatal or postnatal phase, travelers, and those in danger may postpone the fast, but they should try to fast when possible. The fast is to be observed in totality during daylight hours. That means no eating or drinking, and, technically, one is not to even swallow his or her saliva. Sexual intercourse is forbidden, secular concerns moderated, and passions and tempers are to be controlled. Muslims should be involved as much as possible in the remembrance of Allah, and leisure time should be spent reading the Quran and in meditation.
Christians can pray effectually for Muslims during Ramadan. Pray that all of the regulations, guidelines, and restrictions would become such a burden that any perceived benefit would diminish. Pray that the freedom and liberty that is in Christ would attract Muslims.
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have come obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
(Romans 6:17, 18)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
(Ephesians 2:8, 9)