Ramadan, the ninth month the Islamic calendar, is the most sacred month for Muslims. As the Islamic calendar operates on a lunar cycle, the month of Ramadan officially begins the morning after the sighting of a crescent moon. Approximately 600 000 Muslims across the country observe the spiritual month, which began in Australia this year on 6 May.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast every day from dawn to dusk to allow themselves to become more loyal to their faith. Fasting during this month also makes up the fourth pillar of Islam and must be intentional and willfully dedicated to Allah. We chatted to Curtin Journalism and Marketing student Izzy Najihah from Malaysia, and Edith Cowan Accounting students Saadullah Ghuman and Asfand Nouman from Pakistan, to find out about their Ramadan practices.
What does Ramadan involve?
Izzy: There are different traditions throughout. Predominantly for Muslim-Malaysians, the traditions would obviously be that you have to fast from dawn to dusk. We try to be nicer to each other, we try to even just smile and be like ‘Hey, are you okay?’ which is not supposed to happen only during Ramadan, I think Ramadan just amplifies it.
Asfand: You also have to give to the needy people. If you are capable of doing it, you have to do it and take care of the needs of the poorer people.
Who observes Ramadan?
Asfand: As a Muslim, if you don’t have a medical condition and you are an adult, you have to fast for 29 or 30 days, depending on the moon. When guys reach puberty and when girls have their first period, then they are eligible for fasting.
Izzy: There is obviously an exception if you have any health issues, if you’re pregnant, on your period or if it would cause harm to you. For people who don’t fast during Ramadan you can always replace your fast on any other period of the year. If you can’t fast, your second option would be paying a certain amount to the orphanage or making a donation to make up for it. It’s basically the average for what a normal person would eat on one meal, but just times that by 30.
Why do Muslims observe Ramadan?
Asfand: Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Saadullah: It’s an obligation for every Muslim. It teaches you patience and endurance. It is considered to be the holiest month because the Holy Quran was revealed in this month. The first revelation also started in the month Ramadan.
Izzy: Religion wise, God says you have to feel for others, and you have to be grateful. You tend to think about other people, and you put other people’s needs before your own. We do forget there are other parts of the world that need a lot of attention and need a lot of help, and we are always caught up in our own business.
What does your typical day look like during Ramadan?
Asfand: It’s just the same except you can’t eat after the sun rises and until the sun sets. You also have to purify yourself: don’t lie, cheat or steal. It should be a sin-free month, with no wrong doings. You should also take care of others too and try not put anyone into a bad situation.
Izzy: We go throughout the day like normal. I wake up for Suhoor in the early morning and I usually just drink two cups of milk and one cup of water. Then I usually have work or uni throughout the day, or I hit the gym. Then I go back home and have my dinner, then I do my prayers and then I will either study or read a book.
How do you find studying at university in Australia during Ramadan?
Saadullah: When it’s not a Muslim country, the day is very normal. Over here, you don’t get the vibe, but everyone still respects your fast. The teachers are very accommodating at university.
Izzy: It’s really lonely. It is so different because you don’t feel the vibe. Like if it’s Christmas, everyone is in it. You can see decorations and there are Christmas songs and stuff like that, but obviously in Australia everyone is not in on it and it kind of feels just like a normal day.
Asfand: It’s just like a normal day in the uni. In Muslim countries, office hours and school timings are changed. But here, everything is normal.
Do you have a favourite meal to eat at Suhoor or Iftar?
Izzy: Lamb biryani.
Saadullah: In the morning we eat paratha and yoghurt, and drink lassi to keep us hydrated for longer. And then when we break the fast at Iftar, we usually do it with a date because it is the tradition. After the date I like to eat fruit salad.
Asfand: After the date I like to eat pakora and samosa, and drink lots of refreshing drinks like soda with milk, lassi, cordial or lemonade.
What happens when the month of Ramadan is over?
Asfand: We celebrate Eid al Fitr, which is three days long. We know the fast is finished when we see the moon.
Izzy: The first day of Eid is like the biggest thing ever. We have traditional foods and fireworks. We would probably cook throughout the night so that by 5am the food is fresh. Us kids usually only get three hours sleep because we are so hyped up because we don’t have to fast anymore. Everyone takes a shower, then we go to the mosque together, we visit graves of relatives to pay our respects. Then we eat. It’s fun. We lose weight during Ramadan then we bulk up during Eid.
Saadullah: The Eid is known as the sweet Eid, and we eat a lot of sweets like vermicelli and rice creams. It’s a really big celebration.
Photo: Izzy Najihah’s Family Eid Celebration