Ramadan: Six facts about the holy month for non-muslims
"When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained," Prophet Mohammed.
Let the pilau-begging antics stop. Moslems never try guilt-tripping us into inviting them to our homes for Christmas.
In breaking news (read on), there is a possibility of this year's Iddi taking place on Sunday, May 1, which also happens to be Labor Day.
Two public holidays conspiring to fall together on a Sunday! Let that sink in.
Anyhow, here are six answers to the seven frequently asked questions (FAQs) that non-Moslems have about this great holiday.
1) What is Ramadan actually about?
Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for Muslims — the Prophet Muhammed reportedly said, "When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained."
Muslims believe it was during this month that God revealed the first verses of the Quran, Islam's sacred text, to Mohammed, on a night known as "The Night of Power" (or Laylat al-Qadr in Arabic).
2) How does fasting work?
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars or duties of Islam. Those are:
The testimony of faith
Making a pilgrimage to Mecca
Fasting during Ramadhan
All Muslims are required to take part every year, except the ill, the pregnant, the breastfeeding mothers, the menstruating ladies, the travelers, the elderly and young children.
Fasting in Ramadhan is meant to remind you of your human frailty and your dependence on God, to show you what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty so you feel compassion for the poor and needy, and to reduce the distractions in life so you can more clearly focus on your relationship with God.
Fasting is not just about food too. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain drinking any liquids, smoking cigarettes, and engaging in any sexual activity, from dawn to sunset.
3) So do you lose weight during Ramadan?
No. Some of you be thinking, "Wow, that sounds like a great way to lose weight!" Well, no. Ramadan is actually notorious for often causing weight gain. That's because eating large meals super early in the morning and late at night with a long period of low activity bordering on lethargy in between the meals can wreak havoc on your metabolism.
4) Why do the dates of Ramadan change every year?
For religious matters, Muslims follow a lunar calendar — that is, one based on the phases of the moon — whose 12 months add up to approximately 354 days. That's 11 days shorter than our Gregorian calendar. Therefore, the Islamic lunar year keeps moving back by about 11 days each year in relation to the Gregorian calendar.
5) What can I do to be respectful of my Muslim friends during Ramadan?
In some Muslim countries, it is a crime to eat and drink in public during the day in the month of Ramadan, even if you're not Moslem. This is not the case in Uganda and our Moslem brothers don't expect us to change our eating patterns to accommodate their religious fast during Ramadan.
But trying to be understanding would not be a bad idea. If you share an office with someone fasting, don't eat your delicious, juicy mango at your desk. Don't intentionally make your friend salivate, bambi.
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