‘How do you observe Ramadan fast in Space?’ and other questions
This year’s Ramadan will start on or around the evening of May 6 and will be observed by hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide.
Ramadan is upon us. For hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, that means no food, drink, or cigarettes, during day time for an entire lunar month.
But besides all the abstaining, it’s also a period of intense spirituality for the faithful, many Muslims will follow their evening meals with a special night time prayer, known as tarawi, and during the last ten days of the month, considered the most auspicious, some will spend their days and nights in constant worship in mosques, a tradition known as itikaf.
So confused by the whole thing? We have you covered with our list of the most frequently asked questions regarding the Muslim holy month.
What if you’re in space?
Believe it or not, at least one person has fasted in space and Muslim scholars have addressed the issue.
In 1985, Saudi Sultan ibn Salman joined Space Shuttle Discovery during a mission in Ramadan.
The prince witnessed the birth of the new moon from space and based on a ruling by religious leaders, would fast according to his last location on Earth, which in his case was the US state of Florida.
Are there health benefits to fasting?
The short answer, yes. The longer answer is, that as long as a person is suffering from no pre-existing illnesses, in which case they would be exempt, fasting has been scientifically proven to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, lower cholesterol levels, and aid healthy weight loss.
Fasting-based diets, such as intermittent fasting, are becoming increasingly mainstream among athletes and ordinary people alike.
So is it mostly just fasting?
No, fasting is just one aspect of Ramadan. The month is marked by an increase in religious observance, charitable giving, and special prayers.
The normal nightly ‘Isha’ prayer is interrupted so that taravi prayers can take place. Depending on the school of thought a Muslim follows, these are either performed in congregation or alone.
Muslims believe that good deeds are rewarded exponentially in Ramadan so try to be more charitable during the holy month.
In countries in the Gulf for example, it is not uncommon to see rich families host lavish banquets for poor workers, while in the UK, Muslim groups host iftaars for the homeless.
Many Muslims countries take on a different character during the holy month, as societies turn more nocturnal. Restaurants stay open later to cater for those looking to have suhoor, while decorations such as lights and banners are also common.
And yes, traffic does become more erratic as iftar time approaches.
What happens when it’s all over?
Muslims mark the end of Ramadan with the three-day-long festival of Eid.
The day is traditionally marked by eating sweets, visiting relatives, and paying respects to loved ones who have passed away at graveyards.