Ramadan 101

Standard

Stop any passer-by in the street of my hometown and ask him. His knowledge of Ramadan? You don’t eat food from sunrise to sunset. Period.

I have to admit. I used to be this typical passer-by. As are still most people I know back home.

We just don’t know…

Short intensive course for you :) A few important facts, and a few miscellaneous thoughts.


The meal in the morning is called “sahur” and the meal in the evening is called “iftar”. In Malaysia, we typically call it “buka puasa” (break fast) or just “buka”, and it’s cool that way :)

Ramadan is based on a lunar month (the 9th one, to be specific) and starts with the first sighting of the new moon. It lasts 29 or 30 days, and runs from August 1st to 30th this year.

Fasting doesn’t start at sunrise but just before the beginning of dawn, i.e about one hour before sunrise. The idea is to start fasting before the first prayer, called Subuh (at least here). To put this into context, in KL, the call for the prayer is at 5.52am, while the sun rises at 7.12am. Trust me, it’s a long period to resist falling back asleep in the sweet darkness of the early morning :)

We fast from 5.52am to 7.29pm in Kuala Lumpur.

It’s not all about “no eating”. You also need to include “no drinking”, “no smoking”, “no sexual contacts”.

Wait, more to that! Ramadan being a month of spirituality and closeness to your god, Muslims should also refrain from cursing, lying, gossiping, acting bad, etc., and this at whichever time of the day or night. Replace it by doing good, talking good, and increasing your spiritual activities.

Not everyone has to do it. Pregnant women, sick & elderly people, young children and travelers can have a lighter fast or no fast at all, if their condition calls for it. It’s all up to interpretation & personal boundaries. Women in their period also don’t fast, hence they have to “catch up” during the following year, fasting for as many days as they missed during Ramadan.

There is an additional prayer, called Tarawikh. It happens after Ishak (the last of the 5 prayers, at 8.40pm) and is special to Ramadan. Friends told me some people don’t really perform the 5 daily prayers but like to do Tarawikh. It probably has a lot to do with the community feeling of special spirituality you get during Ramadan, but it might have something to do with it being “optional” (you know how something optional always appeals more to you than something compulsory?)

You will find lots of Ramadan markets selling food from sometimes as early as 3.30pm. We call them Pasar Ramadan in Malaysia, or Param for short :)

KL roads are even more packed than usual, as people rush back home to buka with their family or friends.

Your day suddenly becomes way too long.

There is a decrease in productivity nation-wide. At least, that’s what they say ;)

You can sleep in the mosque during the night, which you can’t do in other months, and my friends enjoy this opportunity to strengthen fellowship.

You are supposed to give more donations during that month, so calls to donation bloom everywhere.

In Indonesia, there are “optional tolls” with kids handing out buckets asking for alms near the mosques.

You suddenly realize you don’t know how to catch-up with people, as you can’t have lunch or coffee… (Oh, the drama of my life!)

You don’t sleep enough. Seriously. But you should…

And, sadly, people are starting to mix up fasting and feasting. More on that another day…

As customs wants it, break the fast by eating dates

Picture (C) blog.outlet.co.id

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