Islam, as religion, hinges on what are described pillars and these are five, namely the professing of the Islamic faith (shahada), including the belief that there is no other god but God Almighty and Mohammed is the Messengerof God (Allah); Prayer (salat);Alms-giving(zakat); Fasting (sawm); and Pilgrimage (hajj).
Muslims across the globe on Tuesday began a month-long fasting in fulfilment of one of these five pillars of Islam, observed in the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar in which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him).
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast for a period of 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the crescent (moon).
Thus, Muslims start fasting after seeing the moon on the last day of Shaban, the month that precedes Ramadan.This year, Ramadan ends when the sun sets on Wednesday, May 12.
In Ghana, the National Chief Imam, Sheik Dr Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, the leader of Muslims in Ghana, made an official announcement of the commencement of the fast on April 12 and wished Muslims across the world a peaceful Ramadan.
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk. However, before the sun rises, Muslims usually wake up to eat.Those who do not want to wake up early have a big dinner before bed.
When the sun sets, there is a communal meal called ‘Iftar’, used to break the fast, usually with family or friends.
Not all Muslims are enjoined to fast. Pregnant women, women in their menses, the sick and those travelling long distances are exempt.
Children are not required to fast but if they so wish, they are to learn practising it by participating such as fasting up until lunchtime.
If someone misses a fast, he or she can make up for it by fasting at a later date.
And if you cannot fast because of health reasons, you can donate food or money to the poor instead.
You can eat and drink in front of someone fasting for Ramadan during the day and they will probably turn down your lunch invite, but you can have dinner together when they break their fast.
But the month of Ramadan is about more than just fasting. It is about coming together, so inviting a person to break their fast with you is a large part of the celebration.
It is also a month of self-reflection and a way for Muslims to develop positive habits like avoiding all manner of sins that can be brought forward once Ramadan is over.
This is why it is important for Muslims, first and foremost, and the rest of us to observe everything that brings peace, unity and prosperity to all of us in this country.
The guidelines for Ramadan themselves depict orderliness and fasting itself is an act of denying the self the pleasures of life and rather devoting time and energies to good deeds that attract the blessings of Allah.
Therefore, while we observe Ramadan, let us apply its principles and lessons to help maintain peace in the country and follow the course of development.
The Ghanaian Times prays that the fast would end well, and wishes all Muslims Ramadan Murbarak!