From dawn to dusk during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex in order to purify themselves, learn humility, pray and concentrate on Allah's teachings. Sarah Mahmood is an intern on Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien and a junior at Wellesley College and shares this story of her family's traditional Indian celebration.
This might be the first Ramadan that my parents wonʼt complain about how theyʼve gained weight, despite having fasted the entire month.
After a long, hungry day of fasting, itʼs easy to overcompensate when you can finally eat. It doesnʼt help that in South Asia, the meal eaten to break the fast (Iftari or Iftar in other parts of the Muslim world), consists primarily of fried food.
Now that Ramadan is in the summer though, and the sun sets later at 8 pm, fewer families are having the traditional fare. Itʼs too hectic to prepare and eat two meals just before going to bed, and so many are skipping straight to dinner.
Editor's Note: Yvonne Maffei publishes MyHalalKitchen.com, a blog about halal food and cooking. She currently teaches cooking classes, gives lectures on healthy eating, and consults schools on how to source and create healthy and halal recipes for their school lunches.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar and the holy month of fasting for Muslims worldwide. Individuals at or above the age of puberty and who are physically able to abstain from food and drink will do so from dawn until sunset every day of the month.
Ramadan is also a time of focus on inner spiritual reflection. Muslims are encouraged to increase their good deeds, practice self-control, empathize with those less fortunate and use this as a time to devote oneself to the worship of God and contemplate his message to humankind in the holy Qur’an. (Muslims believe the Qur'an was divinely revealed to Prophet Muhammed through the Angel Gabriel in this month more than 1400 years ago.)
Though the focus of Ramadan is not on food in particular, it is still a time when so many different dishes are savored, shared and appreciated. Because of the lunar calendar, Ramadan falls at different times each year, so seasonal foods will often make their way onto the Ramadan table, changing things up just a little each time.