What is Ramadan anyway?

You may already know it involves fasting, but there is much more to this holy festival. Ramadan happens in the ninth month of the Muslim year and lasts for the whole month, this year it started on the 26th May and finishes on the 24th June. It is a time spent focusing on one’s prayers and thinking of those less fortunate, which is why many Muslims often donate to charities.
We spoke to two of our students, both are females from Saudi Arabia, to find out what Ramadan means to them and what it is like observing Ramadan away from home, read what they said below.

The five pillars of Islam

  1. Shahadah: sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith
  2. Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day
  3. Zakat: paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy
  4. Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan
  5. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca


Fasting is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam. Every Muslim must fast the whole month of Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, unless the person has a reasonable excuse such as sickness. Muslims have to give up the following thing during the hours of daylight( from dawn until sunset): food, drink, smoking and any sexual activity.

What are your reasons for fasting?

There are many reasons behind fasting in Islam especially in Ramadan:

1- Obeying God
2- Learning self-discipline
3- Becoming spiritually stronger
4- Appreciating God’s gifts to us.
5- Sharing the sufferings of the poor and developing sympathy for them.
6- Realising the value of charity and generosity
7- Giving thanks for the Holy Qur’an, which was first revealed in the month of Ramadan.

How do you cope with fasting when staying in a country which is not observing Ramadan?

We try to go every day to the Piety Islamic centre in Plymouth to break our fast with others and support each other by arranging meals. In addition, we usually invite our friends who are not Muslims to your home to have the breakfast with us at time of the sunset

Are you able to eat traditional foods While you are here such as Kabsa?

Yes indeed, we can prepare whatever we want in our breakfast such as Kabsa which is the traditional food in Saudi Arabia. However, we are recommended by our prophet Mohammed that we should break our fast by eating some dates and drinking water at the beginning.

When in your own country, do schools/work hours change?

Yes, all the schools and working places change their working hours in Ramadan. For example, the usual working hours are from 9 am to 5 pm but in Ramadan they are reduced from 10:30 am until 3:30 pm.

Is there anything you would like people to know about Ramadan?

Muslims who are physically or mentally unwell can be excused from fasting, as may those who are under twelve years old, the very old, those who are pregnant, breast-feeding, menstruating, or travelling.


What are your reasons for fasting?

I believe that fasting is not just giving up eating and drinking but is a belief in Allah, also the fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to Allah and to remind us of the suffering of those less fortunate. It’s seen as the way to physically and spiritually purify oneself. Muslims often donate to charities and feed the poor during Ramadan.

How do you cope with fasting when staying in a country which is not observing Ramadan?

It is difficult in the first few days, for example in England Ramadan is in the summer then we have to fast approximately 19 hours. It is a very long time compared with Saudi Arabia, also there is nothing to help us like group breakfast and preparation of charity meals

When in your own country, do schools/work hours change?

Yes, we have a holiday in Ramadan in schools and some workplaces change the time to be later some not .. but you have to come on time.

Is there anything you would like people to know about Ramadan?

1. Ramadan is all about peace. It is about being a better person; people don’t only fast from food, they fast from any extreme emotions; anger, frustration, envy, and sadness. The main spirit of the month is for people to focus on their relationship with God and strengthen the faith instead of letting their emotions take control of their lives.

2. It’s also a month of love. It’s a tradition in most Muslim countries to meet large groups of friends and family during Iftar (the time when you break your fast).

3. It’s a reflection of life. Since Ramadan teaches you patience, humility, gratitude and self-control, if you reflect deeper, these are also the tools you need to live a good life.

4. There are exceptions. Not all Muslims have to fast; if you’re pregnant, sick, travelling or on medication, you’re not supposed to fast. You can only fast if the conditions are normal and if you’re healthy.

5. It’s also an opportunity to get to know yourself. When you isolate yourself from all the material things and spend less time thinking about eating, drinking, and going out, you get to truly spend some time with your thoughts and your feelings and listen to them. It’s another form of soul searching; you get to know parts of yourself and you get to understand how strong you are against temptations and how forgiving you are against those who did you wrong and how you can let go. All these are questions we normally ask ourselves, but Ramadan really puts it all into perspective.