Q: How did the fast during Ramadan become obligatory for Muslims?
A: The revelations from God to the Prophet Muhammad that would eventually be
compiled as the Quran began during Ramadan in the year 610, but the fast of Ramadan
did not become a religious obligation for Muslims until the year 624. The obligation to
fast is explained in the second chapter of the Quran:
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before
you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint…Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down
the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment
(between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during
that month should spend it in fasting…” (Chapter 2, verses 183 and 185)
Q: What do Muslims believe they gain from fasting?
A: One of the main benefits of Ramadan is an increased compassion for those in need,
a sense of self-purification, and reflection and a renewed focus on spirituality. Muslims
also appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by family and friends throughout
the month. Perhaps the greatest practical benefit is the yearly lesson in self-restraint
and discipline that can carry forward to other aspects of a Muslim’s life such as work
Q: Why does Ramadan begin on a different day each year?
A: Because Ramadan is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days earlier each year.
Throughout a Muslim’s lifetime, Ramadan will fall both during winter months, when the
days are short, and summer months, when the days are long and the fast is more
difficult. In this way, the difficulty of the fast is evenly distributed between Muslims
living in the northern and southern hemispheres.
Q: What is Lailat ul-Qadr?
A: Lailat ul-Qadr (“Night of Power”) marks the anniversary of the night on which the
Prophet Muhammad first began receiving revelations from God, through the angel
Gabriel. An entire chapter in the Quran deals with this night: “We have indeed
revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: and what will explain to thee what the
Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein
come down the angels and the Spirit by God’s permission, on every errand. Peace!
This until the rise of morn.” (Chapter 97) Muslims believe Lailat ul-Qadr is one of the
last odd-numbered nights of Ramadan.
Q: How can co-workers of other faiths and friends help someone who is fasting?
A: Employers, coworkers and teachers can help by understanding the significance of
Ramadan and by showing a willingness to make minor allowances for its physical
demands. Special consideration can be given to such things as requests for vacation
time, the need for flexible early morning or evening work schedules and lighter
homework assignments. 13
It is also important that Muslim workers and students be given time to attend Eid
prayers at the end of Ramadan. Eid is as important to Muslims as Christmas and Yom
Kippur are to Christians and Jews. A small token such as a card (there are Eid cards
available from Muslim bookstores) or baked goods given to a Muslim coworker during
Eid al-Fitr might be appreciated.
Hospital workers should be aware that injections and oral medications might break the
fast. Patients should be given the opportunity to decide whether or not their condition
exempts them from fasting.
Q: Do people normally lose weight during Ramadan?
A: Some people do lose weight, but others may not. It is recommended that meals
eaten during Ramadan be light, but most people can’t resist sampling special sweets
and foods associated with Ramadan.