For the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, the upcoming month of Ramadan will bring fasting, reflection, and charity.
Although Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, Canada’s Muslim population is smaller by comparison; 3.2 per cent of Canada’s population is Muslim.
For those who might not know much about this major holiday, Adil Hasan with the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council (AMPAC) has answered our questions.
On your mark, get set…
The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar calendar, and this year’s Ramadan is scheduled to start this week. However, as of our interview on Global News at Noon on Monday, the exact date had not been finalized.
“Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar year,” Hasan explains.
“Because of the moon cycles, you don’t know exactly what day it’s going to fall.
“Right now we’re looking at Wednesday or Thursday,” he says.
“People much higher up the totem pole than me get to decide which day it is, but it’s based on the moon sighting and the chances of seeing the moon. Right now, thankfully, astronomy has come a long way so we have a good idea of which day it is going to be, but they don’t determine it until about the day before.”
A movable fast
A big part of Ramadan is fasting. Since it follows the lunar calendar, some years Ramadan falls in the spring or summer, meaning going without food or drink over the long, hot days.
“That’s obviously challenging this time of year,” Hasan says.
“Typically, people will break their fast at sunset, they’ll have a little meal and then go to the mosque for evening prayer. After that prayer, they’ll come back home and then have something to eat — breakfast you could call it, at 3 a.m. — and then try to catch a few hours of sleep before heading to work.
“The hardest thing isn’t food, it’s actually sleep. and that takes a couple of days for your sleep cycles to get adjusted. But that’s what this month is about, it’s about self-sacrifice and showing that discipline,” he says.
“That really kind of shows you: if I’m able to abstain from food, I can work on myself to become a better person.
“It often seems harder than it is. Once you actually get into it, you do find a sense of spiritualism and the sense of community is really great. That’s what you feel the most. Almost 1.6 billion people around the world going through the same thing that you are. Breaking fast with your friends and family is a really special time.”
The connection of community
A 2015 Pew Research Center report found Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, on track to surpass Christianity this century. For Muslims, Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection.
“You try to find that relationship with God,” Hasan says. “It’s a time for people to go back and reflect, that’s something that’s really encouraged is reflecting on your relationship with God and your fellow humans.
“You do a lot of inner reflection, but you also look at where you are in the world and how you can make the world a better place,” he says.
“It’s a month where charity is really encouraged. So, people — you’ll find them to be much more generous. So if you have a neighbour, go visit them and maybe they’ll share some treats with you this month,” Hasan laughs.
And then we party
And after a month of fasting, reflection and charity, there’s a huge celebration: Eid.
“It’s such a big party, we don’t keep it to one day, it’s three days of parties,” Hasan says.
“We consider this the best time of the year.”
AMPAC invites members of the wider community to get in touch with them to learn more. To learn more or arrange to visit to a local mosque, go to ampac.ca.