The five pillars of Islam are the essential cornerstones of the religion. Each one represents a daily practice, designed to keep a believer’s heart light in the worship of God.
The declaration of faith, although proclaimed only once, is a belief that becomes a lived experience everyday. The second pillar, performing the five daily prayers, represents a routine which should calm and ease the soul. Compulsory giving in charity is third– 2.5% of your wealth, which aims to cleanse your wealth and heart, from the disease of greed.
The fourth pillar is, of course, mandatory fasting in the month of Ramadan. Heightened spiritual awareness during this month acts as a manual reset to your soul. Reviving your spiritual connection with your Lord comes through the sacrifice of many daily essentials, in order to become closer to Him. Finally, if you have sought to achieve the first four pillars and your wealth allows, then you must perform the pilgrimage to Mecca – once in your lifetime.
Ramadan comes each year with much rigour and discipline. There are rules to follow, which ensure that a believer will gain as much out of the sacrifice as possible. These may look stringent from the outside, but are seen as helpful guidelines for the fasting person, in the hope that their adherence will bring about redemption.
Here are a few things that you may have always wondered about fasting the month of Ramadan:
- No eating, drinking, smoking or intimate relations – from pre-dawn to sunset, for each of the 29 or 30 days. This fact is quite well known, but much less care is given to the requirement of avoiding swearing, lying and fighting. The fasting person should embody the best of manners, something which they should aim to achieve the rest of the year round.
- The month of Ramadan is referred to in the Quran, not as the fasting month, but the month of the Quran. Therefore the fasting person should increase their connection with the Quran, by reading it more often and praying in the night, reciting its verses.
- Exemptions are given in the fast to those who are ill, travelling, pregnant and breast- feeding, or extremely old or young. In addition, women who are experiencing their menstrual cycle. Days missed should be made up as soon as is possible to do so, unless the illness is long term. They can then be made up through donating to the poor for everyday missed.
- Each daily fast should begin with a dre-dawn meal. It is recommended by the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) that this occurs as late as possible, right before the fast begins. Likewise the fast should be broken as soon as possible after the sunset prayer is announced.
- Breaking of the fast is recommended to be done with a date, as per the habit of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW). If this is not possible, water will suffice.
- The end of Ramadan is signified by the sighting of the new moon of Shawwal. This will be sought by committees across the globe, waiting to announce the arrival of Eid!