Ramadan 2023 has just begun! Each year, on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, you’ll see mosques packed full of people, then, once the sun has set, these same people filling up restaurants and food bazaars. If you haven’t been living here for long, you might want to know more about Ramadan in Singapore. Also known as the fasting month, it’s observed by Muslims all over the world. If you’re not sure exactly what it entails, don’t worry – by the end of this article, you’ll certainly know your iftar from your suhur.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. It’s also known as the holy month of fasting in Islam. You may also have heard it called Eid, but that’s not actually correct – Eid (or to be precise, Eid al-Fitr) is the day that Ramadan ends.
When is it?
The dates of this aren’t set in stone. They go by the lunar calendar, which changes each year and relates to the monthly cycles of the moon. The Judicial High Court in Saudi Arabia declares when Ramadan starts, but some prefer to go by their own sighting of the new moon at the start of the ninth month. Different countries tend to start the fasting month on different days, depending on visibility and weather conditions.
Ramadan 2023 starts on Wednesday, 22 March, and ends on Thursday, 20 April.
Why does it happen?
Ramadan is a period of self-restraint, in line with sawm (which means ‘to restrain’ in Arabic), one of the pillars of Islam. As well as this, Muslims believe that Allah forgives the past sins of those who observe the holy month faithfully.
How does it work?
You might think that Ramadan involves just refraining from eating and drinking, but that’s not the whole of it. It also involves the obligation to refrain from sexual activity and immoral behaviour, including unkind thoughts and deeds, between dawn and dusk. Breaking these commitments would have the same implications as eating or drinking during daylight.
What will happen daily during Ramadan 2023?
- As soon as the sun sets, Muslims break their fast with a meal called iftar. Shortly after the regular sunset prayers, this meal is shared with friends and extended family, usually at the mosque or at home, and it begins with the traditional dates or apricots and water or sweetened milk.
- Extra prayers happen at night, called tarawih prayers. These are performed in addition to the five prayers performed daily throughout the year. Ideally, they should be done at the mosque in a congregation, but they can happen at home too. Over the course of the month, the entire Quran may be recited during these prayers.
- Finally, just before the sun rises, the pre-dawn meal is eaten, called suhur. It has to be a big meal, and as nutritious as possible – you can’t do much about it if you get peckish during the day!
- In order to cope with the extra prayers and meals, some Muslim-majority countries change or reduce their working hours. For Ramadan in Singapore, flexi-time or reduced time is available, but unfortunately it isn’t implemented nationwide.
What happens at the end?
At the end of such a tough fasting month, you might expect an extravagant celebration – and you’d be right! Eid al-Fitr (known better locally as Hari Raya Puasa) is celebrated at the end of Ramadan in Singapore. Muslims wake up early in the morning and visit the mosque, to thank God for all that He has given them. People then go home and gather as family groups, exchanging gifts, visiting the graves of ancestors, and eating delicious meals. Children dress in new clothes and women dress in white. It’s a joyous celebration for all!
By Hannah Griffiths (intern from Tanglin Trust School)
For more helpful tips, head to our Living in Singapore section.