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Ramadan begins today - but it's not as straightforward as simply fasting

There’s more to the fasting than just staying away from food and drink.
Jun 18th 2015, 6:00 AM 23,921 61

India Eid al-Fitr Indian Muslims offer prayers on Eid al-Fitr at the Jama Mosque in New Delhi. Source: Tsering Topgyal/AP/Press Association Images

TODAY MARKS THE beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan for the more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, some 50,000 of which live in Ireland.

This makes up 1.1% of Ireland’s population, according to the last Census.

The most well-known element of Ramadan is fasting, where from sunrise to sundown Muslims are not permitted to eat food or drink any water.

This is limited to healthy adults. Children, pregnant women, or people with an illness such as diabetes are exempt. There is also sometimes an exemption for people who work physically exerting jobs.

However, it’s not limited to food and drink.

Other ‘banned’ habits

Muslims are required to abstain from other habits such as sex or smoking. There are also some unusual additions – it isn’t permitted to deliberately vomit, and under strict rules Muslims cannot deliberately swallow their own saliva.

The rules are based around intentional acts. For example, breathing in second-hand smoke, accidentally getting dust in your mouth, or vomiting due to an illness isn’t going to break the fast.

Indonesia Ramadan A woman uses her mobile phone to take pictures as Muslims perform an evening prayer called tarawih marking the first eve of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia. Source: Associated Press

Other actions such as receiving injections or taking a shower are permitted.

Women

Ramadan can pose a difficulty for women, as the rules for this month say that women on their period must not fast, and instead fast at a later date.

Behaviour

Some also suggest that Muslims should be on their best behaviour during Ramadan, like not talking behind people’s backs or using abusive language.

Reading the Qur’an

Another traditional element of Ramadan is reading the Qur’an, as during this period the Islamic holy book is said to have been “sent down” to Mohammed.

Gabriel, who you might know from other works such as the Bible, is also said to have visited Mohammed during this month to recite the Qur’an.

After Ramadan, which is due to finish around 17 July this year, comes Eid. This a major event in the Islamic calendar. Muslims are permitted to break their Ramandan fast, and generally do so with a big celebration. Present giving, although not traditionally a part of Eid, has grown in popularity.

Read: Dutch government plans to ban the burqa (sort of) >

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Nicky Ryan

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