Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, is upon us. It’s the most sacred month in Islamic culture. Each year its dates vary depending on the lunar cycle. In 2022, Ramadan falls between April 2nd and May 1st. Millions of Muslims across the world unite for this religious event marked as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and selfless actions. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll be aware of friends and family saying, “Ramadan Mubarak” to each other during this time. Read on to find out more about this greeting and what happens during Ramadan.
Greetings During Ramadan
“Ramadan Mubarak” is possibly the most recognised greeting for the holy month. It means either, “Blessed Ramadan” or “Happy Ramadan.”
You pronounce the greeting, “Ram-a-dam Moo-baa-rack.” That’s with special emphasis on the ‘ba-rack’ part of the word. The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root “ar- ramaḍ.” This means ‘scorching heat’ or ‘dryness’.
Muslims believe that the angel Gabriel appeared to Prophet Muhammad. This happened in 610 AD, they believe, and it was then that there was a revelation of the Koran.
The belief is that this happened during Ramadan. Many refer to this event as Laylat Al-Qadar or the “Night of Power.” Muslims fast during this month as a way to remember the revelation of the Koran, the Islamic holy book.
Fasting During Ramadan
Fasting between sunrise and sunset is obligatory for all Muslims during the month of Ramadan. There are exceptions. These generally include:
- Young children
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Women and girls who are menstruating
- Anyone travelling long distances
- Those who have a serious or acute illness
- People with a chronic illness or condition such as diabetes
- Those who don’t have the mental capacity to comprehend the reason for the fast
- Frail or elderly people
Some believe it’s possible to make up for any days missed fasting throughout the rest of the year: either all at once or a day here and there.
Meals are occasions when Muslims can gather with others in the community and break their fast together. Pre-dawn breakfast, or suhoor, tends to happen at 0400. That’s prior to fajr, the word for the first prayer of the day.
The evening meal, iftar, can start once the sunset prayer, Maghreb, is over. That’s usually at about 1930. Given that Muhammad broke his fast by eating dates and drinking some water, many Muslims eat these fruits at both suhoor and iftar.
Dates are a staple of the Middle East. They’re rich in nutrients, easy to digest and give the body the sugar it needs after a long day of fasting.
When Ramadan Ends
After the last day of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the “festival of breaking the fast.’ It starts with communal prayers once day breaks.
During three days of festivities, people get together to pray, eat and exchange gifts. They’ll also pay their respects to relatives who have died. Some cities put on carnivals and hold a series of large prayer gatherings as well.
Some Tips for Carers
If a person with a health issue fasts then there will be a lot to consider. Those with health problems should always consult their religious leader and their doctor to determine if they still need to fast or are able to fast safely. Anyone with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 should consider alternative options. It’s worth noting that Islamic scholars have confirmed that having the COVID-19 vaccine during Ramadan does not invalidate the fast. Several Islamic Medical Associations advise that if a person becomes unwell during Ramadan, they should stop fasting and seek medical advice. If someone has diabetes and still wants to fast they must speak to their GP or diabetes nurse about the safest way to do this. There are exemptions for people with diabetes, especially those on insulin or who have any medical complications.
Appointments and Medication
If a person has a medical appointment booked during Ramadan, they should still plan to attend. If they need to adjust the time, they should contact the relevant healthcare organisation to do so. It will be important to continue taking prescribed medicines during Ramadan. Those who are fasting should check with their pharmacist or GP to see if there need to be alterations to doses or to the times they take their meds. Fasting during the month of Ramadan can be as much of a mental exercise as it is a physical one. Many people have their own personal ways to prepare their minds and bodies but here are some extra tips that can help:
You should encourage someone who is fully participating in Ramadan and fasting to drink several times during the night. It’s best to avoid caffeinated drinks as these can keep you alert at the very time you need to sleep. Fizzy drinks can contain large quantities of sugar and so it’s also a good idea to steer clear of these too. The best advice is to drink plenty of plain water. Breaking a fast at iftar with water is not only traditional, it ensures intake of the best source of hydration. Smaller amounts of water taken at regular intervals are better than drinking one very large quantity all at once.
It’s best to eat a variety of food types during the evening. The body of someone who has been fasting will be craving plenty of nourishment after a day of not eating. Budget permitting, good choices would be:
- Whole grains such as brown rice and oats
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Sources of lean protein such as chicken or fish
- Healthy fats from olive oil and nuts
Protein shakes and high-energy bars can also be useful supplements. It’s best to avoid deep-fried food and meals that have high sugar and fat content.
Here are some easy combination ideas to go with drinking plenty of water before sunrise:
- Oatmeal porridge made using fat-free milk and topped with nuts, seeds and fruit
- A portion of whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk, topped with nuts and fruit
- Two slices of wholemeal toast, a boiled or poached egg with a piece of fruit.
- A peanut butter sandwich on wholemeal bread with a glass of low-fat milk
- A banana, apple, peanut butter and low-fat yoghurt smoothie
- A bowl of vegetable soup with two pieces of whole-grain toast
- A couscous salad with plenty of vegetables, olive oil and some canned tuna
Eat Slowly and Mindfully
Although a person will be hungry when fasting, it’s best not to overdo it at mealtimes by serving up mega-portions of food. Eating mindfully by taking time to chew food properly and savour the tastes can satisfy hunger more effectively and puts less stress on the body.
Try and Maintain an Exercise Routine
Even if taking any exercise at all is a challenge at the best of times, it’s important to continue moving your body. Some sort of light exercise after breaking a fast can work best. Short, easy exercises or doing a series of stretches will help maintain energy levels.
Listen To Your Body
Different people will react to fasting in different ways. It’s important for someone to get to know what works for them and what doesn’t. This might mean experimenting with how often and when a person eats to keep their energy up.
A Time to Celebrate!
Despite all the caveats, it’s important to remember that Ramadan is the most joyous month of the year in the Muslim calendar. Those fasting need to enjoy meals with others, exercise goodwill and be patient with their bodies.
Comfort Keepers has plenty more useful articles to help and support our carers. Read more of these here in our blog section.