Ramadan Quick Facts - ZA

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2024 Date10 March 2024
2025 Date1 March 2025

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Ramadan History

Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for millions of Muslims worldwide. As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, its observance aims to help Muslims grow spiritually and purify themselves by stirring compassion for the less fortunate. During Ramadan, Muslims partake in fasting, prayer, self-reflection, and community acts of charity. The fast held from dawn until sunset requires abstinence from food, drink, and other physical needs. It is believed that through sacrifice and self-discipline, Muslims can draw nearer to God and cultivate a sense of humility and gratitude.

In South Africa, Islam arrived in the 17th century with the influx of slaves from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Indian subcontinent, bringing with them the tradition of Ramadan. Today, over one million Muslims, or roughly 2% of South Africa's population observe Ramadan annually. To South African Muslims, Ramadan's key aspects include Taraweeh prayers (additional evening prayers), community iftars (breaking of the fast), and charity drives. During this time, mosques become hubs of spiritual activity, fostering unity and a sense of communal identity.

For those observing Ramadan in South Africa, the start of the fasting period is announced by the sighting of the moon, following the lunar Islamic calendar. This practice varies in dates each year due to the lunar cycle but often falls within the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Community groups coordinate efforts to sight the moon sighting and relay this information countrywide, often through local radio stations. Typical South African Iftar meals might include samoosas, dates, and haleem, a rich meaty stew. Ramadan concludes with Eid-ul-Fitr, a celebration marking the end of the fasting period, involving prayer, feasting, and festivities.

Facts & quotes about Ramadan

  • According to Islamic tradition, menstruating women, women who are experiencing bleeding after giving birth, people who are sick (either with short term or long term illnesses), and travelers are exempt from fasting. Pregnant women also have the option of skipping fasts.
  • According to Sunnah belief, the Prophet Muhammad once said, There is no conceit in fasting.
  • O who believe, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; perchance you will guard yourselves (Quran, 2:183)
  • The moon sighting is an important part of the start of Ramadan in South Africa just as in other countries. The Hilal Committees around the country work with the South African Weather Services to help predict the sighting of the new moon.
  • The tradition of lighting Ramadan lanterns originates from Egypt, but it has also become a popular tradition in South Africa. Children in South Africa often make their lamps, known as "fanoos" a few days before the start of Ramadan.

Top things to do in South Africa for Ramadan

  • The fast is usually broken in a family setting, where traditional foods are served. Most Muslims begin their meal with a few dates and a glass of milk because the Prophet Muhammad used to do the same. The high sugar content of the dates sends energy to weary fasting Muslim, while the fiber in the dates and the protein in the milk fills them up and prevents nausea.
  • During Ramadan, Muslims congregate every night in the mosque to pray Taraweeh prayers in congregation. In the United States, in between sets of prayers, the Imam gives a brief sermon and encourages people to give to charity.
  • Visit the Auwal Mosque: Located in Cape Town, the Auwal Mosque is the oldest mosque in South Africa, built in 1794. During Ramadan, it is a popular place to join in prayers, especially the Taraweeh prayers.
  • Read a book to learn more about Ramadan in South Africa:
    Crescent Moon: Stories of Muslim Women in South Africa - by Shamima Shaikh
    A Concise Introduction to Islam: Faith, Religion and Politics in the Contemporary World - by Dr. Jerome-Taylor
    Fasting and Dates: A Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr Story - by Jonny Zucker and Jan Barger Cohen

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