Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is considered the holiest month among Muslims all around the world.
According to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), during Ramadhan, the gates of heaven are open, the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained.
The dates of Ramadhan change every year depending on the moon phase. The Islamic calendar has approximately 354 days, in comparison to the regular calendar which has 365 days. This means the first day of Ramadhan is observed approximately 11 days earlier every year.
Depending on the new moon sighting, Ramadhan may last for 29 or 30 days. If the new moon is observed on the night of the 29th day, that night marks the end of the blessed month. If the new moon is not observed, Ramadhan is extended by one day, which totals up to 30 days.
Fasting during Ramadhan is one of the five pillars of Islam and is annually performed by billions of Muslims across the globe, who fast from dawn to sunset every day over the holy month.
For some countries, the fasting period may be longer than others. Some fast for over 18 hours depending on the country they live in. Those who are exempt from fasting include children, the elderly, pregnant women and sick people, among others.
While abstaining from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset, Muslims also refrain from negative emotions such as anger and jealousy as well as immoral behaviour such as lying.
All in all, fasting is done as an act of worship and to be closer to Allah the Almighty while learning the virtues of patience and breaking bad habits.
During Ramadhan, Muslims typically wake up at dawn to eat a meal called sahur, which is meant to sustain them throughout the day. When the sun sets, Muslims break their fast and typically gather with their families to have a meal called iftar (also known as sungkai in Brunei Darussalam). Generally, they break their fast by eating dates.
Terawih are additional prayers performed every night of Ramadhan after the Isyak prayer, lasting up to 20 rakaat. Muslims typically gather at mosques to pray together for terawikh, lasting about an hour or more.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mosques in Brunei Darussalam have been closed for over a month. On April 20, 2020, Minister of Religious Affairs Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman announced the closure of mosques, suraus and religious halls to be extended until April 27, 2020. The temporary closure was extended to curb the COVID-19 infections and keep each other safe.
With the emphasis on performing good and spiritual deeds during Ramadhan, Muslims can benefit from the night of Lailatul Qadar, which is observed during the last 10 days of Ramadhan and is considered the holiest night of the Islamic year.
According to Al-Quran, Lailatul Qadar is better than 1,000 months, which means any good deed performed during the night of Lailatul Qadar is equivalent to doing a good deed for roughly 83 years.
Lailatul Qadar is also the night where Allah the Almighty grants blessings and forgiveness to those who pray and sincerely repent for their sins.
Thus Muslims are encouraged to spend the last 10 days of Ramadhan with religious activities such as prayers, zikir and reciting Al-Quran. The exact night of which Lailatul Qadar occurs during Ramadhan is not mentioned in the holy book.
However, according to a hadith by Al-Bukhari, it was narrated that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said to look for the night of Lailatul Qadar in the odd-numbered nights of the last 10 days of Ramadhan.
FASTING TIPS DURING RAMADHAN
Given that Muslims are required to fast from dawn to sunset over the month of Ramadhan, it is important to pay attention to what we eat.
To ensure we have ample energy to accomplish our tasks during the day, we must take responsibility to take balanced and nutritious meals before we start our fast and when we break our fast.
It is common among Muslims to overeat at sungkai after a long day of fasting. Instead of overeating, we must practice self-restraint and watch our portions while eating healthy at the same time.
Ideally, both sahur and sungkai should consist of simple and nutritious meals with fiber-rich food such as fruits and vegetables.
When we break our fast, we should eat slowly to avoid indigestion and drink plenty of water to make up for the absence of water intake during the day. Avoid eating salty or deep fried food and food high in fats or sugar.
The public is reminded to be cautious when driving home for sungkai, to stay within the speed limit and plan the day ahead to avoid rush hour. In addition, practice social distancing when picking up orders or opt for food delivery.