Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and lasts either 29 or 30 days, depending on when the new crescent moon is, or should be, visible. The Arabic term Ramadan connotes intense heat. It seems that in pre-Islamic Arabia, Ramadan was the name of a scorching hot summer month. In the Islamic calendar, however, the timing of Ramadan varies from year to year. This year Ramadan begins in most places on April 13. An Islamic year is roughly 11 days shorter than a Gregorian year.
In Ramadan, there are two main meals; suhoor is served and eaten before fajr (sunrise prayer), and Iftar, is served and eaten after Al-Maghrib (sunset prayer). Typically, these meals are enjoyed in groups.
The holy month is marked by fasting from dawn until sunset and the Taraweeh prayers that Muslims perform daily in the mosque in the evening after salat al Ishaa (what’s this).
Taraweeh prayers are expected to start in the evening of April 12, the day before Ramadan begins. In 2020, the US and Canada began fasting on April 24.
This will be the second Ramadan Muslims around the world will observe in the middle of a pandemic. Last year’s Ramadan was also unusual. Muslims globally were forced to perform their prayers at home and no family gatherings were allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eid Al Fitr is expected to take place on May 13. In Eid Al Fitr, Muslims gather in large open spaces (Musalla) or mosques for another special prayer, called Salat al-Eid.
Fatwa on COVID Vaccination
Amid the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns launched by both countries, some may start wondering whether the vaccines invalidate the fast. The British Islamic Medical Association assured the Islamic community about taking the vaccine while fasting in a statement published on January 28.
The association stated: “taking the COVID-19 vaccines currently licensed in the UK does not invalidate the fast, as per the opinion of Islamic scholars. Individuals should not delay their COVID vaccinations on the account of Ramadan.”
The Fiqh Council of North America has also declared the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as Halal. The Council has released a detailed Fatwa on COVID vaccines.
“… after due consultation with our medical experts at Initiative on Islam and Medicine, we at the Fiqh Council consider the above mentioned two vaccines permissible (Halal), and advise the community to receive COVID vaccines with due consultation with and advice of their physicians. We also ask Muslims to play their role in debunking baseless rumors and myths about the vaccine.”
President Biden and First Lady’s Greetings
President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden have greeted Muslims across the United States and the world at the advent of Ramadan. The holiest month on the Islamic calendar will start in much of the US tomorrow, April 13th.
“Jill and I send our warmest greetings and best wishes to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world. Ramadan Kareem,” said a statement issued by the White House on the eve of Ramadan.
This is the second Ramadan Muslims are observing during the pandemic. The president referred to the numerous difficulties and challenges the pandemic has brought to peoples lives. “In this pandemic, friends and loved ones cannot yet gather together in celebration and congregation, and far too many families will sit down for iftar with loved ones missing”.
He said American Muslim communities will begin the month of revelation with renewed hope. “Many will focus on increasing their consciousness of the presence of God in their lives, reaffirming their commitment to the service of others that their faith compels, and expressing gratitude for the blessings they enjoy—health, well-being, and life itself.”
He said Muslim Americans have enriched the United States since its founding. They are as diverse and vibrant as the America they have helped build. Today, he added, Muslims are leading in our efforts to fight COVID-19, playing a pioneering role in vaccine development and serving as frontline health care workers. They are creating jobs as entrepreneurs and business owners, risking their lives as first responders, teaching in our schools, serving as dedicated public servants across the nation, and playing a leading role in our ongoing struggle for racial equity and social justice.
But still, he pointed out, Muslim Americans continue to be targeted by bullying, bigotry, and hate crimes. ‘This prejudice and these attacks are wrong. They are unacceptable. And they must stop. No one in America should ever live in fear of expressing his or her faith. And my administration will work tirelessly to protect the rights and safety of all people.”
The President recalled that on his first day in the office he ended the “shameful” Muslim travel ban, adding he would continue to stand up for human rights everywhere, including for Uyghurs in China, Rohingya in Burma, and Muslim communities all over the world.
“As we remember those who we have lost since last Ramadan, we are hopeful for brighter days ahead. The Holy Qur’an reminds us that “God is the light of the heavens and earth,” who leads us out of darkness to the light. Although our White House festivities will be held virtually this Ramadan, Jill and I look forward to resuming the traditional White House Eid celebration in person next year, inshallah. We wish your families an inspiring and rewarding month.”