Ramadan: What to Know About the Muslim Holy Month in 2023
More than 1 billion Muslims around the world are preparing for Ramadan, and fasting which takes during the holiday is recognized as one of the 5 Pillars of Islam. The monthlong observance is expected to begin at sundown on Wednesday, March 22 — a period of reflection, prayer and fasting. This includes many throughout the CSUN community — students, faculty, staff, alumni and families alike.
When Is Ramadan in 2023?
Ramadan, the monthlong holiday where many Muslims fast, is expected to begin at sundown March 22 and end on April 21. The exact time and date of the holiday varies slightly from region to region, depending on the first sighting of the crescent moon.
Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies professor Sumaya Bezrati and her family take part in a special tradition that includes a local hike to kick off the start of the holiday.
“The night before the first day of fasting, I bake cookies and pack them along with some Arabic mint tea and a thermos of hot chocolate for the kids,” Bezrati said. “My family hikes up to the top of the hill in Porter Ranch before sunset … and [we] try to spot the new crescent moon that marks the beginning of Ramadan. When we spot it, usually shortly after sunset, we celebrate and shout out, ‘Ramadan mubarak!’ (blessed Ramadan!). We are joyous and happy. We pray together there and feast on cookies and hot drinks before hiking down the mountain in the dark with flashlights.”
The exact dates of Ramadan differ each year due to the Islamic calendar, which follows the lunar cycle. The holiday takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
What Does the Holiday Celebrate?
Ramadan celebrates the prophet Muhammad receiving the Qur’an’s first verses.
During the holiday, many Muslims abstain from eating, drinking water and having sex from dawn to sunset. In addition to fasting, the holiday focuses on prayer and spending time with family and friends. Ramadan is also a time for individuals to seek out forgiveness for their transgressions. The monthlong celebration concludes with one of the two major holidays in the Islamic faith, Eid al-Fitr.
“For Muslims, Ramadan represents a time for devotion and heightened sense of spirituality that has individual and social implications,” said Mustafa Ruzgar, professor of religious studies. “They engage in a variety of activities ranging from reading and reciting the Qur’an to helping poor and needy people.”
During Eid al-Fitr, which translates to “festival of breaking the fast,” many gather with loved ones while enjoying traditional celebratory foods. Giving to those less fortunate is also encouraged. Eid al-Fitr is expected to begin this year between April 21-23.
Many people are inspired by the holiday to help those in need, Ruzgar said, noting the community comes together to ensure everyone is able to celebrate.
“The spiritual atmosphere of Ramadan will inspire Muslims to engage in charity activities more than other times,” he said. “At the end of Ramadan, those who are eligible give what is called sadaqa/zakat al-Fitr, which is charity specific to Ramadan for the purpose of helping poor people celebrate the festival at the end of Ramadan.”
The holiest night of Ramadan is Laylat al-Qadr, the “Night of Power.” The sacred night, expected to fall on April 18, consists of prayer, self-reflection and performing good deeds.
Does Everyone Fast During Ramadan?
Fasting during Ramadan typically applies to individuals who have reached puberty and are physically capable of abstaining from food and beverage during daylight hours.
Bezrati explained that not eating during Ramadan ensures that people in the community who are in need are better served.
“One of the reasons for fasting is to go without, so that others don’t have to,” she said. “Meaning, if you skip one meal every day, lunch, you can take that meal and give it to someone who is struggling with food insecurity and hunger. Our local mosques will organize food pantry donations, and we distribute them throughout the Valley and greater Los Angeles.”
To prepare for a day of fasting, a pre-dawn meal is encouraged. At the end of each day, the fast is broken with a meal called iftar, which usually includes gathering with family and friends.
Habeba Mostafa, a second-year graduate student in mass communication, explained that breaking the daily fast is one Ramadan tradition she finds quite meaningful, as it allows her to reconnect with her community.
“I appreciate having iftar … and reuniting with people I cherish who I may have not seen all year at the mosque,” Mostafa said. “Usually in our community, families will sponsor and cater food for the night, and anyone is invited to come and share a meal. It’s a time of celebrating another successful day, and preparing, both mentally and physically, for the next.”
What Are CSUN Students and Faculty Looking Forward to This Ramadan?
This year is a particularly important holiday as she looks ahead to graduation, Mostafa said.
“I’m excited to grow this year, not only as a Muslim, but now as a working, graduating graduate student,” she said. “It will be a challenge, but I’m excited to see how much I can handle and remind myself of the internal strength I carry. The month is bigger than all of us, and despite its challenges, there is beauty in that.”
Ruzgar said he’s excited to connect with loved ones during the holiday month while also getting the opportunity to hear a famed Qur’an reciter who is coming to his mosque.
“I am looking forward to celebrating the Ramadan in a way that allows me to connect with my family and friends, some of whom live overseas, on a deeper level,” he said. “I am looking forward to calling them and chatting with them about how their Ramadan is going. In addition, I am looking forward to listening to a new Qur’an reciter our local mosque is inviting from Egypt, who belongs to a family of world-famous Qur’an reciters.”
Bezrati, who said breaking the daily fast reminds her of another holiday, said she’s most looking forward to enjoying all of the holiday-specific foods, some of which her family only gets to enjoy during Ramadan.
“It’s like Thanksgiving, but 30 days in a row! There’s a reason most Muslims gain weight during Ramadan, instead of losing,” she said. “My favorite part of Ramadan is gathering with my friends and family for iftar parties. The parties are sometimes extravagant and sometimes simple, but regardless, that feeling of the first bite of food after not eating for 17 hours is a huge rush.”