• Holiday Hub at Affinity
  • About Ramadan

    Ramadan is the most sacred time of the year for Muslims. 

    But what exactly is Ramadan?

    For Muslims, Ramadan (from the Arabic word for “scorching heat”) is the name of the month-long celebration which commemorates God (Allah) giving the prophet Muhammad the first verses of Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an (or Koran in the West), on a night known as "The Night of Power" (laylat al-qadr in Arabic) over 1,000 years ago.

    Observing Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam – the five duties that every Muslim must complete. Because the holiday is based on a lunar calendar, the dates on which it falls changes every year. During 2021, Ramadan begins at sundown on Monday, April 12th.

    What happens during Ramadan?

    During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world fast every day from sun up to sun down, literally not eating or drinking during daylight hours. Fasting, or sawm, is the fourth pillar of Islam.

    Fasting is meant to be a time of spiritual discipline — of deep contemplation of one's relationship with God, of extra prayer, of increased charity and generosity, and of the study of the Qur’an. It also teaches self-control and what it’s like to be less fortunate and unable to eat. Eating or drinking are not the only prohibited activities: gossiping, swearing and arguing are inappropriate, as are sex and smoking.

    But there is more to Ramadan than fasting. The second Pillar of Islam is salat (prayer), and Muslims are to pray five times a day in the direction of Mecca (the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad).

    Prayer makes up the three ashras (or stages) of Ramadan. Mercy and blessings are the theme of the verse recited to Allah during the first ten days of Ramadan that make up the first ashra. Forgiveness is the second ashra, observed between the 11th and 20th day, during which Muslims seek Allah’s forgiveness. The third ashra begins on the 21st day and ends on the 29th or 30th according to the lunar cycle, and it’s the most important as it focuses on protection from hell. Many practice aitkaf (seclusion for prayers) during this last ashra for greater focus during their prayers.

    Who should fast?

    Fasting is required only for those who are medically fit and have reached an age of maturity (puberty). Excused may be young children, the elderly, those who are ill (physically or mentally), frail, pregnant or breast-feeding or menstruating. However, since Ramadan is essential to the Muslim faith, if a person is temporarily unable to fast they have to make up for it later or in other ways (such as charity).

    How do Muslims break the fast?

    Each day of Ramadan, Muslims stop their fast at sundown with prayer and a shared meal called iftar. Many mosques host free iftars for the public.

    On the night that Ramadan ends, observed at sundown on Wednesday, May 12th this year, a celebration called eid al-fitr begins in which people pray and feast to mark the end of the fast.

    May I ask questions about Ramadan?

    If you don’t understand someone’s faith or tradition, ask about it, respectfully. Questions like, “How do you observe Ramadan?” or “How can I help you be comfortable during Ramadan?” will help you grow your understanding and connect you to the people in your life who follow Islam.

    You may wish someone a 'Happy Ramadan'. The Arabic greeting is Ramadan mubarak, which means ‘have a blessed Ramadan’ or Ramadan kareem, meaning ‘have a generous Ramadan.’

  • Ramadan Mubarak!

    • Supporting the Muslim Community

      Supporting the Muslim Community

      The Affinity Community Engagement (CE) team is proud to be supporting the Muslim community during Ramadan. In early April, CE donated 3,000 bottles of water and personal protective equipment (PPE) to guard against COVID-19 to 15 mosques across the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. Read more
    • Salman's Tips for Healthy Fasting

      Salman Zafar is an Affinity Community Engagement representative who works closely with South Asian community partners in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. As a practicing Muslim, he observes Ramadan and offers tips for a healthy fast. Read more
      Salman's Tips for Healthy Fasting