Ramadan 2021 is coming and will bring a month of daily fasting for Muslims in Birmingham, across the UK and around the world.
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar means no food, drink, smoking, sexual activity or ‘sinful behaviour’ between early morning and sunset for 29 or 30 days.
How are you getting ready for that challenge?
Rather than trying to adjust suddenly to a month of fasting, some people plan ahead for the event so it’s not such a shock to the system.
Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office, a UK Government agency gathering astronomical data for the police, Royal Navy, British Army and many other organisations, has predicted that Ramadan will begin on the evening of Tuesday, April 13. when the first crescent of the new moon is easily visible, so it is not very far away now
We’ve put together some top tips for getting ready for Ramadan and getting the most out of it.
So how can you prepare for Ramadan?
1. Do voluntary fasting beforehand
One way to prepare would be to fast voluntarily during part of the preceding month.
During Shaban, the month before Ramadan, it’s said fasting is not permitted in the second half of the month (starting from the 16th day) – except for those who regularly undertake fasting on some days.
So if you already fast habitually – such as on one or two days of the week – it’s a good idea to keep this up in the month prior to Ramadan.
But it’s definitely not advisable for anyone to fast on the last one or two days before Ramadan starts. You need to make sure your body is well-nourished and in good physical and mental condition for the month of fasting.
The Prophet Muhammad fasted voluntarily in Shaban more than in any other month, saying: “That is a month occurring between Rajab and Ramadan that many people neglect. It is a month in which the deeds ascend to the Lord of the Worlds, be He Mighty and Majesty, and I love for my deeds to ascend while I am fasting.”
He also fasted regularly on Mondays and Thursdays, explaining: “Those are two days in which the deeds are presented to the Lord of the Worlds. I love that my deeds are presented while I am fasting.”
So it might be a good idea to try this twice-weekly fasting, especially ahead of Ramadan.
Others fast the 13th, 14th and 15th days of every month (these are called Al-Ayaam Al-Beedh, the White Days) so this could be another routine to try getting into.
2. Cut down on junk food and eat better
Another way to prepare is to cut down on any excesses beforehand.
Avoid snacks between meals and try to cut out fast food.
By sticking to nutritious meals at regular times, you’ll more easily adapt to the two daily meals (suhoor and iftar) that are allowed during Ramadan.
3. See a doctor
If you have any health conditions or persistent illnesses, see your GP to find out if fasting is advisable.
Fasting during Ramadan is compulsory for all adult Muslims, except those who are sick, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or travelling.
4. Quit smoking
Fasting during Ramadan applies not only to food and drink but also to smoking.
Smoking is an addiction so it can be really hard to give up.
One way to offset the stress of trying to stop smoking during Ramadan is to cut down or give up beforehand, to ease yourself into the month of fasting more gradually.
Hopefully, the prayers and general focus on spiritual matters during Ramadan will help to make it easy not to think about reaching for a cigarette.
5. Change your sleep patterns
If you’re not a devout worshipper, the changes to routine during Ramadan can be hard to stick to, especially if you are a late riser because of work patterns.
The first meal of the day before fasting begins- well before sunrise – means getting up especially early.
So you could try to adjust the times when you go to bed and get up before Ramadan begins if your work hours can accommodate that.
6. Pray and recite the Qur’an more often
Ramadan involves a lot of spiritual reflection – including prayers and recitals of parts of the Qur’an.
You could get into the habit now by reminding yourself of key religious texts and performing some additional prayers.
Those who recite the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly and precisely are said to be in the company of angels.
Those who recite with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, are said to have twice that reward.
Perform a few extra prayers will enable you to be ready for all the additional worship that takes place during the month of fasting.
7. Give more to charity
One of the five Pillars of Islam is Zakat, the giving of a fixed percentage of wealth to the poor and needy.
And during Ramadan, when the focus is no longer on earthly needs such as food or sex, Muslims have time to focus more on their spiritual life.
As a result, many worshippers pay their Zakat during Ramadan.
At the end of Ramadan, it’s then time for Zakat ul Fitr – an offering to the poor so that they too can celebrate the end of the fast with the feast of Eid ul Fitr, just like everyone else.
Muslims are encouraged to increase their acts of giving and kindness prior to Ramadan as well.
Muhammad is quoted as saying: “Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.”
1.Eid ul Fitr is one of the most important Muslims festivals in the Islamic calendar and marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. It takes place at the start of the next month, Shawwal.
2.Celebrate Eid, the one-day celebration of Eid ul Fitr in Birmingham’s Small Heath Park, sees approximately 150,000 Muslims joining in a single congregation.
3.Islamic religious festivals are based on the moon’s cycle. This is different from the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the sun and used by most of the western world.
4.Eid, which means “festival of breaking the feast”, is a religious holiday and a day of celebrations when Muslims will give thanks to Allah, and exchange small gifts and cards.
5.People usually dress in new clothes or in their finest outfits for the day.
6.Eid ul Fitr begins on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month in the lunar calendar, but usually carries on for three days. Muslims can opt for a further six days of fasting in this new month – these do not have to be consecutive. Anyone completing this is said to have completed the equivalent of fasting all year round. This is because Islamic tradition says that a good deed is rewarded 10 times – completing Ramadan and the six days during Shawwal, times 10, is a year.
7.Giving to charity is an important part of Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr. This is usually donations of food to the poor so they too can enjoy Eid celebrations.
8. Expect a very different Ramadan in 2021
Ramadan will once again be different this year but won’t be impacted as much as it was in 2020, when all mosques had to close in the first national lockdown.
This year, mosques are open for communal worship but Covid safety measures are being taken.
Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre (GLMCC) in Birmingham has hadthe following precautions in place since it was allowed to reopen:
- Age restriction recommendation for elderly worshippers
- Attendance pre-booking/registration
- One way exit and entrance
- Mandatory face mask
- Opening doors/windows to ensure good ventilation, even if cold
- Availability of hand sanitisers
- Enforced 2+ metres social distancing rules (signs/ground marking)
- Prohibiting groups/clusters to form outside the venue as people are exiting
- Worshippers told to bring their own prayer mats
- Closure of washing facilities
Guidance has been issued on Taraweeh/Qiyam (night prayers), Iftar (breaking of the fast) and suhoor gatherings (pre-dawn meal), and Itikaf (spiritual retreat) – find out more on each of those here.
At the end of Ramadan, there will be multiple separate prayer gatherings for Eid al-Fitr rather than one large, packed congregation.
9. Be aware you can still have your Covid vaccine
There’s no need to let Ramadan get in the way of a Covid vaccination.
Two leading Muslim figures working in the NHS – Imam Yunus Dudhwala, Head of Chaplaincy at Barts Health NHS Trust, and Dr Farzana Hussian, a senior GP – stressed that getting the jab does not break the daily fast observed in the holy month of Ramadan, which this year is expected to start on April 12 or 13.
Some NHS vaccination sites across England are extending their opening hours so that Muslims can receive the jab after they have eaten and make it easier for people to find a convenient slot.
However, Dr Hussain a practising Muslim who works at The Project Surgery in East London, said that there was no need to avoid going to appointments in daylight hours and it is a religious duty for Muslims to get vaccinated when their turn comes.
Dr Farzana Hussain said: “Getting an injection does not break the fast as it’s not nutrition and so there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have it if you are eligible and have been invited for your Covid-19 vaccine and those scheduled for their second dose, should take it.
“The Quran says saving your life is the most important thing: to save one life is to save the whole of humanity. It’s a responsibility of a practising Muslim to take their vaccine.”