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Ramadan 2021: everything you need to know

Hands reading book written in Arabic script

The month of Ramadan begins today – here you will find everything you need to know, including tips for fasting and supporting anyone taking part.   

What is Ramadan? 

Ramadan marks the month when the Holy Quran is said to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad PBUH by Allah (God). This is observed by a month-long fast. 

Muslims around the world abstain from food and drink for 30 days, including water, during daylight hours (from dawn to dusk), as a means of celebrating and reflecting on their faith. 

Fasting at Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam - the fundamental rules that all Muslims follow. Find out more about the five pillars of Islam in this video: Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars'

When is Ramadan?  

Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar which consists of 12 months in a year of 354/55 days. In Arabic, this is called the Hijri Calendar and started with the migration of Prophet Muhammed PBUH to Madinah from Makkah 1442 years ago.

Due to the Islamic Calendar being based on the different phases of the moon, each of the months move back around 10 days each year. So, Ramadan could be in the middle of summer in 2015 and be in December by 2030! This year, Ramadan begins on Monday 12 April, and will end on Wednesday 12 May

Who Takes Part in Fasting?  

Every Muslim should take part in Fasting, unless... 

  • You're too old - If you have reached an age where abstaining from water or food is too difficult or impossible, then you do not and should not fast.  
  • You're too young - Generally, children below the age of 14 do not fast, as it is too difficult physically but also because they do not fully understand the meaning and the spiritual importance of fasting.  
  • You're traveling - Travelling is an excuse not to fast for the day/days you are fasting as it can be exhausting to travel and would therefore require food and water. However, the days you missed should be made up after Ramadan is over. The aim should be to have completed all 30 days of Ramadan fast before the next Ramadan.  
  • You're sick - Whether you have a long-term or short-term illness, you are excused from fasting if fasting would make the illness worse or if it is simply impossible to abstain from food/water.  

If you have started the day fasting, but felt dizzy or sick, then you should immediately break your fast. Similarly, women who are experiencing their menstrual cycle are also exempt from fasting as the physical body is in a much weaker state and therefore requires nourishment.  

Top 10 Tips  

  • Plan your meals: Eat fruits filled with water such as cucumber and watermelon to help with thirst during the day. Eat slow burning foods for suhoor such as porridge, and avoid fried foods!
  • Plan your study/work schedule: Some people prefer studying in the early afternoon, others prefer studying after Iftar when you're no longer hungry and can focus much better. Find what works best for you and make a routine. 
  • Stay consistent: This is a month of reflection, so try to stay away from social media and TV which could distract you from your intentions of this month. 
  • Go on a walk after Iftar! This will help digest the food better, make you feel energised and prepare you for taraweeh.  
  • Nap between Duhr and Asr (if you don't want to look like a zombie during iftar and it's a beautiful Sunnah).
  • Keep motivated: Make a realistic Ramadan goal list and hang it up. Make a list for the reasons for fasting to keep you motivated during the low-imaan Days. Prepare a Ramadan playlist to listen to throughout Ramadan (Quran or lectures/podcasts). 
  • Learn/Implement new habits that you can carry on after Ramadan - everyone has high imaan and the shaytan is locked up, a great excuse to implement small daily habits such as saying daily duas or giving a pound a day to charity or even improving our vocabulary.  
  • Evaluate and reflect throughout Ramadan: Take time, even just five minutes, every night to check if you're still on track to achieving yours goals, if not slightly amend them or work super hard the next day. Since Ramadan is the month of the Quran, aim to read the Quran from beginning to end in this month, if you can, and reflect on the meanings. 
  • Plan to spend as much time as possible with the key 4 - your family, Allah, the Quran and yourself.  
  • Enjoy Ramadan and get excited for Eid on Wednesday 12 May! 

How to support those who are fasting  

If you do not observe the month of Ramadan, you can help Muslim family, friends, course mates and colleagues by:

  • Trying not to schedule meetings around evening time (dusk) when the fast for the day ends, so they can eat on time.
  • Additionally, don't schedule catch-ups over a lunch or dinner, as you will be the only one eating.
  • Don't make a big deal about eating. Most Muslims don't mind if you eat/drink near them so long as you're not in their face about it.
  • Try not to get them involved in strenuous activities which could be tiring - otherwise it could make them feel even more weaker. 
  • Be understanding if they need more time in day-to-day activities, as time must be taken out for prayers. 
  • If you notice a Muslim peer not fasting for the day, don't question it; they have their reasons for not doing so. 
  • Show your encouragement with kind gestures and words.    
  • Ask them how you could support them through this month e.g., any adjustments that may need to be made. Everyone's needs are different, so it's best to ask individually. 
  • Once Eid celebrations begin (which marks the end of Ramadan), wish your Muslim peers an Eid Mubarak, it means a lot! 

Can Muslims take COVID-19 tests during Ramadan?

It is likely that Muslims will need to take COVID-19 tests (lateral flow tests or PCR tests) during Ramadan. The British Islamic Medical Association conclude that taking these tests will not invalidate one's fast, so please continue to take tests as recommended.

 Further Resources 

  • How Islam Began
  • Islam In Brief-An introduction to the teachings and history of Islam, from Harvard University
  • Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars-John Greenteaches thehistory of Islam, including the revelation of theQuranto MuhammadPBUH, the five pillars of Islam, how the Islamic empire got its start, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and more
  • Anyone is welcome to join a collection of online eventswhich are educational orin celebration of Ramadan by following the link totheBig Virtual Iftar.
  • The Muslim Council of Britain-This webpage shares guidelines, advice and signposting resources to help Muslims in Britain make the most of the blessed month, as well as friends, neighbours and colleagues of Muslims.

This article has been adapted from a story originally posted on the #DiverseReading blog, written by student representatives of the Reading Islamic Society, Hatty Taylor and Nozomi Tolworthy (UoR Diversity and Inclusion Advisors). Please use this link to view the original article, ‘Ramadan 2021'.

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