This blog post was provided by Abdussalam Nakua, Director of Community Initiatives, Muslim Association of Canada.
Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic Calendar, which follows the lunar cycle, so the start date varies from one year to the next. This year it starts on April 13th, and ends on Wednesday, May 12th, 2021. Ramadan is meant to be a time of reflection and spiritual rejuvenation, and a time to abstain from other pleasures. During Ramadan all able-bodied Muslim adults are expected to fast. Muslims begin fasting well before sunrise and will not eat or drink until after sunset.
So, what is the benefit of going through this apparently grueling experience? In its essence, the experience is meant to be spiritual, to attain an elevated and heightened state of spiritual being. Giving up simple pleasures and experiencing hunger and thirst enables us to feel gratitude for the blessings we have.
Ramadan is a time of self-renewal as well. As we face the daily grind of our busy lives with a multitude of demands on our time from family, careers, and community, Ramadan offers us an opportunity to refocus our energies and find a balance between them and the four key areas of our life: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual. As we regulate and become more conscious of our food intake during Ramadan, there are many health benefits that come from this stringent eating regime. Ramadan is also a time of communal renewal with family and friends breaking fast together. The communal spiritual experience is further enhanced through the nightly prayer and the celebration of Eid at the end of Ramadan brings together a truly joyous community gathering. Ramadan offers an immediate spiritual connection that can not be attained otherwise.
The Month of Charity
Beyond fasting, Ramadan is synonymous with charity. Indeed, it is normally known as the month of charity; it is worth remembering that, according to Muslim tradition, charitable acts in Ramadan are rewarded multiple.
There are many ways to demonstrate charity and help others. Consider extending this aspect of Ramadan by committing to do one or more of these charitable acts
- Pay your Zakat al-Fitr (or Fitra as commonly known to many). Zakat al-Fitr is charity given to the poor at the end of the fasting and before the celebration of Eid. The purpose is to enable all community members to celebrate and enjoy Eid. This year, consider $10 per person, young and old. You can donate online here to the Muslim Association of Canada.
- Pay your Zakat. Zakat refers to purification in general and purification of wealth in particular. There is no better time to pay it than during Ramadan, and in the Muslim tradition, charitable acts are multiply rewarded during the holy month of Ramadan. Donate here to the Muslim Association of Canada.
- Break bread with friends and neighbors. Invite someone to join your family for iftar, or sponsoring an iftar in your local masjid. There is nothing more effective in forging strong bonds in communities than sharing laughter over good meal.
- Extend an act of charity to a homeless person. You can buy a homeless person lunch, or donate to organizations that provide services to help the homeless.
- Donate food to those in need. Browse and make a donation for your local food bank. According to Food Banks Canada, 4 million Canadians are food insecure and struggle to put enough food on the table; they face tough decisions about how to make ends meet daily. Visit Food Banks Canada.
- Support a School Breakfast club near you. Are you aware that one in five Canadian children is at risk of starting school on an empty stomach?
- Sponsor a child. Millions of children in developing countries lack access to basic necessities, like health care, nutrition and education. Sponsoring a child is one of the best ways to empower those living in these conditions and one way to make a difference in their lives and the condition of their communities.
- Expand the horizon of your charitable acts and plant a tree. According to the prophetic traditions that whenever one plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift for him. Support the tree planting movement with Tree Canada.
Make this Ramadan special through acts of kindness and charity.