Dialogue Across Borders wishes Muslims a blessed Ramaḍān

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Mon, 2023-03-27
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On Thursday, March 23rd, Egyptian Muslims began the first day of the Ramaḍān fast which extends for the next thirty days. The Islamic tradition recognizes the month of Ramaḍān as the time when the Qurʾān was first revealed to the Prophet Muḥammad. For this reason, the whole month is considered holy. While practices may vary, Muslims generally view the month of fasting as a way of disciplining the soul and drawing closer to God. One Muslim scholar suggested to me that disciplining the soul from actions like eating that are normally permissible can help fortify the soul in its efforts to avoid actions or dispositions that are not morally or spiritually permissible. If a person is ill, of advanced age, traveling long distances, or in certain other unique situations, they are not required to fast. 


(Ramaḍān lanterns, referred to as fānūs [pl. fawānīs] on sale in Islamic Cairo.)


For many Muslims in Egypt, the first ifṭār, or evening meal taken after a day of fasting, is a special time for gathering with extended family. Other important or common practices include the following:


  • Qurʾān reading: many Muslims will try to read the entirety of the Qurʾān during the 30 days of Ramaḍān. For this reason, the Qurʾān has been divided into thirty sections to help facilitate this practice. Some people may consult Qurʾānic commentaries (tafsīr/pl.tafāsīr) in order to enrich their reading.
  • Tarāwīḥ prayers: these are voluntary prayers during Ramaḍān that usually take place after ṣalāt al-ʿishāʾ, the last of the five daily prayers. The prayers often involve extended Qur’ānic readings.
  • Saḥūr meals: meals that are taken at night before dawn at which point the next day of fasting begins. In some contexts, one may hear drummers walking through the city attempting to rouse people for the saḥūr meal.
  • Tahajjud prayers: additional night prayers that are also voluntary.
  • Iʿtikāf retreats: during the last ten days of Ramaḍān, some Muslims may decide to spend time residing in a mosque.
  • Zakāt/Ṣadaqat al-fiṭr: an amount of money or its equivalent that should be given by every Muslim to the poor during Ramaḍān. The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Shawqī ʿAllām, set the amount at 30 EGP for this year. 
  • Laylat al-Qadr (“Night of Power”): based on the Qurʾān (Q 97) and Islamic tradition, the Night of Power is understood as the time when the Qurʾān was revealed for humanity. There are different views over which night in Ramaḍān the night occurs, but it is agreed that it occurs during the last ten days of the month. For this reason, many Muslims may adopt additional practices like iʿtikāf retreats and tahajjud prayers during the last ten days of the month.
  • ʿĪd al-Fiṭr: A holiday that marks the end of Ramaḍān. Many Egyptians prefer fish on this occasion.

(A normally busy street in Cairo is almost completely empty as people gather for ifṭār after a day of fasting.)


While these might be considered some of the religious basics of Ramaḍān, it is important to recognize that people in Egypt and around the Middle East approach this month and fasting in general in a variety of different ways. Many Egyptian Christians are also fasting at this time in preparation for Easter. Coptic Orthodox Christians, for example, generally fast from all animal products for fifty-five days before Easter, among other fasting practices. A former intern coordinator and friend of Dialogue Across Borders, Kii William has partnered with friends from Egypt, Tunisia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom to host a cuisine and cultural centre during the month called RamaJam. Located in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo, RamaJam is a place for people to socialize in the evenings, listen to music, and enjoy international cuisine. Christians, Muslims, adherents of other religions, and people who do not practice any religion are all invited to attend. For more information on RamaJam, see https://www.instagram.com/ramajam.eats/.


We hope this will be blessed Ramaḍān for Egypt and the region.


With best wishes,

Matthew Anderson

Executive Editor

Dialogue Across Borders


March 27, 2023