Five things to know about Ramadan, the 'birth of Islam'
Muslims around the world and in central Ohio begin observing the holy month of Ramadan on Wednesday evening.
During Ramadan, which commemorates the revelation of the Quran, both Sunni and Shia Muslims fast from dawn till sunset and engage in volunteerism and charity.
In central Ohio, many Muslims will gather for special prayers at one of 28 area mosques, according to Imran Malik, the interfaith director at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Hilliard.
Here are five things to know about Ramadan:
1. Ramadan commemorates the 'birth of Islam'
Ramadan marks the revelation of the first verses of the Quran by the angel Gabriel (or Jibril, as he is known in Arabic) to Mohamed, who was living inside a cave outside of Mecca in 610 A.D. Muslims believe that Mohamed was the last in a line of prophets who began with Adam and also included Solomon, Moses, and Jesus.
“The primary beauty of Ramadan is it is the month God chose to reveal His Holy Book — it’s the birth of Islam,” said Horsed Noah, outreach director of Somali Islamic Centers of Ohio.
2. Most Muslims fast during Ramadan, but there are exceptions
Muslims, who make up about 1% of adults in Ohio, are expected to abstain from food and water from dawn till dusk — currently about 12 hours and 15 minutes in Columbus.
“We decrease our bodily desires, and we increase our spirituality. In other words, we reconnect our soul with the maker of that soul, which is God,” said Noah. “We learn discipline from fasting.”
However, young children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people who are ill or traveling are generally not expected to fast, according to Malik.
3. Ramadan is about community and charity
Each evening during Ramadan, Muslims gather with friends and family for a special meal — known as iftar — to break the fast, and many attend special prayer services at mosques at night. Muslims also make charitable donations — known as zakat — of 2.5% of their wealth during the month.
“The idea is that you start thinking about people around you. You realize, hey, I may have all the provisions in my life … the best house and the best car, etc., but what what about the people around me?” said Malik.
4. The dates of Ramadan vary by year and locality
Because Ramadan is based on the Islamic lunar calendar, it is 10 to 12 days earlier each year relative to the Gregorian calendar. Thus, over the course of 33 years, Ramadan will take place in every season.
But even within the same year, different groups observe the start of Ramadan on different days. Ramadan begins with the new moon, and some Muslims believe that the moon must be sighted locally, unobstructed by clouds. (Thursday is the astronomical new moon.)
Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr, one of the largest Muslim holidays.
5. Ways to be sensitive to Muslims during Ramadan
Non-Muslims may wish to be sensitive to their Muslim co-workers who are fasting by not eating directly in front of them, according to Noah.
Giving gifts of cookies, dates, or other treats for breaking the fast is also a welcome gesture.
“Or, just say ‘happy Ramadan,’ or ‘have a blessed Ramadan,’ to your Muslim co-workers or neighbors,” Noah said.
Peter Gill covers immigration and new American communities for The Dispatch in partnership with Report for America. You can support work like his with a tax-deductible donation to Report for America here:bit.ly/3fNsGaZ.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Five things to know about Ramadan