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3 of the most popular questions among Muslims and non-Muslims during this month: “what is Ramadan?”, “Why can’t you even drink?” and “when does it start?”
What is Ramadan and why do you fast?
Ramadan is a month within the Islamic lunar calendar in which fasting from sunrise to sunset is expected; in the surah Baqara, in particular, we are reminded how this custom originates from the past and what the obligations are related to it. In general and spiritual, however, Ramadan is considered to be a month of purification from worldly life, in search of a purer model that is capable of transforming the individual for the better.
The purpose of Ramadan is in fact to bring about changes (possibly) in the long run, not to kill the faithful; not surprisingly: the elderly and infants are exempted, while travelers, the sick and women with menstruation, can make up for lost days in the rest of the year.
But what exactly can you not do? Can’t you even drink the water?
As already said, Ramadan is to be understood as a month of purification and this implies a departure from all those who are typically “material needs”. This specifically concerns: food, drinks of all kinds, sexual relations, tobacco and the like but, above all, the mind; the latter may not seem central but it is, paradoxically, the essential condition for Ramadan. To be clear: a muslim who literally follows the “material prohibitions” and then gossip or blasphemy, can safely resume eating, it means that he has not understood the meaning of the month.
Returning to us, Ramadan is understanding the importance of things with their absence, which is why, precisely the lack of water, can be considered one of the clearest examples of this logic. In a historical moment in which the climate, and in particular the water resources, are constantly damaged, understanding the value of water is something essential. During the holy month the believer will discover the wonder of water, its flavor and its wealth, something that could hardly be understood otherwise and a necessary condition for truly developing global empathy.
With Ramadan, in fact, rich and poor are forced to stay on the same level, eliminating part of the differences and truly understanding what are the most important things in life, including water. The absence of water is undoubtedly one of the hardest aspects, but one of the few that can truly understand the essence of Islam.
When does Ramadan start and how long does it last?
As mentioned in the first question, Ramadan is nothing more than a month on the Islamic calendar and, like all the other months of the Islamic calendar, it lasts from 29 to 30 days. It is more complicated to explain when it falls, also because we have to go into another form of calendar: the lunar one. Unlike the Gregorian, which follows the movement of the sun and therefore of the seasons, the latter follows the Moon, thus varying every year.
The motion of our satellite, in fact, is shorter than our star and, consequently, each year lasts approximately 10 days less. This means that every year the time when it starts is approximately 10 days before last year, bringing a different experience to the believer. This is particularly significant for those who live in extreme areas (ex. North Pole or South Pole), since without this constant change of calendar they would be forced into Ramadan either “too simple” or “too arduous”. With this system, however, both will be forced to experiment with these conditions, making everything fairer.
This Ramadan is expected to begin on April 24 and end around May 24; however, there are doubts every year as there is a strong rivalry between the calculation and the lunar sighting that often lead the communities to divide regarding the beginning of the month.
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