What is Ramadan? Part II - Restrictions and abstinence
Ramadan, the holiest month on the Islamic calendar, is observed at different times annually. The start of the month is determined by the first sighting of the new moon, and the month might last for different periods in different countries. This year, it lasted between mid-May and mid-June.
It is observed to mark the time when Allah revealed the Koran to the Prophet Muhammad and is regarded an act of worship, an opportunity to get close to Allah, and a time to become more thoughtful of those in need.
It is a period of fasting in which practising Muslims, with some exceptions, fast during daylight hours. It is a common practice to eat one meal, the suhoor, just before sunrise, and another, the iftar, immediately after sunset. But, apart from fasting, there are other things that practising Muslims do and should refrain from.
NO EATING AND DRINKING
Especially in public, there should be no eating and drinking in the days. Chewing of gum and smoking are also prohibited. The playing of loud music and dancing are considered disrespectful. Some restaurants close for the period, or adjust their opening hours. Travellers are advised to stock up on food in their hotel room. Dressing modestly is also strongly advised.
Although the research has not come up with why, it is said that the drinking of Vimto, a traditional British tonic made of the blend of blackcurrants, raspberries, and a secret mix of 29 herbs and spices, is very popular in Ramadan. Thirty-five million bottles are sold each year, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates being the major consumers.
As part of the practice of Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, Muslims are asked to give away 2.5 per cent of their wealth. Zakat is the compulsory giving of a set proportion of one's wealth to charity. It is regarded as a type of worship and self-purification. It does not refer to charitable gifts given out of kindness, but to the obligatory giving of the said percentage of one's wealth each year to benefit the poor.
The reasoning behind this obligation is that givers are obeying God and that helping is an acknowledgement that everything comes from God on loan and that people do not really own anything, and since they cannot take it with them when they die, they must not cling to it.
There is also the argument that being rich or poor is God's choice, so people who have chosen to be poor must be helped. The act is also said to be one of learning self-discipline and the freedom from the love of material possessions, money, and oneself. It liberates the giver from greed and is a way of behaving honestly. This percentage applies only to cash, gold, silver, and other commercial items. There are other rates and mining produce, and animals.