IT’S that time of the year again where Muslims around the world fast during the Holy Month of Ramadhan. Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar/Hijrah calendar. It is also the month in which the Al Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Every year Muslims are reminded about their spiritual obligation to fast during this time. Fasting is one of the five Pillars (along with a belief in Allah, a pilgrimage to Mecca, charity, and prayer five times each day) of Islam.

Moreover, Ramadhan serves as a season of spiritual renewal and gratitude for the generous gifts bestowed upon all human beings by Allah (SWT). We Muslims believe that it is a month in which families grow closer, communities strengthen their friendship and individuals reaffirm their spiritual roots through prayer and contemplation and reading of the Al Quran.

Fasting during this month begins at dawn and ends at sunset. It is a requirement asked of all able-bodied adults, and the persons who are exempted to fast are women who are in their monthly period of menstruation; those who are sick; and those who are travelling in far places.

The fasting day begins after the early morning meal (suhoor) consumed before dawn, while Iftar is the breaking of the fast at sunset. Iftar usually begins with water and dates as it was in the time of the prophet Muhammad (SAW). Muslim restaurants are encouraged to serve free meal. In our local practice, benignit/ginataan, or lugaw are served to those breaking their fast.

Ramadhan is the period of spiritual renewal because of the hard experiences that a Muslim has to undergo every day. Hunger and lack of sleep are physical tests that we, Muslims, have to endure for the entire month. It is also a season that offers a time of spiritual introspection, self-discipline, and spending time with the poor families in the community to offer and serve Iftar. The five daily prayers every day are also performed along with the reading of the Al Quran every night.

The DarulIfta (Regional Jurist Consult) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) headed by Abolkhair Tarragon declared that Ramadhan for this year will start on June 18, 2015 (Thursday). This means that Muslims in the region will perform the preparatory rituals on June 17 in the evening and eat suhoor on early before dawn of the 18th.

However, there are some Muslims will not begin their fasting on Thursday. This is mainly because there are two methods of determining the start and the end of Ramadhan. First, there are those who rely on the calendar and calculate the start of a new moon. Second, there are those who rely on actual visual determination of the new moon. Therefore, there will be some Muslims that will start their fasting on the 19th (Friday). However, there is the 3rd method wherein some Muslim communities just simply follow when Saudi Arabia will start to fast.

Fasting is common to different religions, especially with the Abrahamic faith (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). It is not only the Muslims that fast. According to an Hadith, "When the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) migrated to Medina, he witnessed the Jews fasting Ashura and he asked why they fasted this day. He was told it was the day Allah emancipated the Musa and his followers from the Pharaohs, so Prophet Musa used to fast this day in gratitude to Allah”.

Another Hadith mentioned that the best sawm (fasting) after sawm in the month of Ramadan is during the month of Allah, known as Muharam. In particular the fasting of the tenth day of the Muharram, known as the Day of Ashura. The Prophet recommended fasting on the tenth and also the ninth of Muharram”.

Looking at all these different rituals on fasting, we can say that it is especially imperative for all Muslims to maintain a connection to Allah through the specific Prophetic acts of worship encouraged during each particular month and to understand the significance of the Islamic months as they relate to the life of a Muslim. Fasting in the day of Ramadhan is not a fad or something that you simply do because other people are doing it. Fasting is a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle of Muslims to ensure a Halal way of living.