Hawzah News Agency (Calgary, Canada) - The month-long fast of Ramadan will begin on Tuesday, May 15 as long as the moon is not shrouded by cloud cover and is subsequently spotted by the naked eye somewhere on the North American continent.
The fast and celebration of devout prayer marks the month in which Muslims believe Allah revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
It is the most important month in the Islamic calendar and it is obligatory for the vast majority of Muslims to fast during Ramadan.
As the Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle, the fast’s start date varies from one year to the next. Each day during Ramadan, Muslims begin fasting well before sunrise and cannot eat or drink until after the sun sets. That means that when Ramadan occurs during the long days of summer, the fasting can be particularly challenging.
The first day of fast this year will start at 3.30 a.m. and end at 9.22 p.m. in Calgary.
As the days get longer, that time is extended by two minutes daily so the final fast a month later will not end until 9.55 p.m.
Dr. Atthar Mahmood, vice-president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and president of Muslims Against Terrorism, said that although the fast will last for almost 18 hours, it is still slightly shorter than that of the past few years.
“I keep telling my children to give it another three years and then it won’t be so hard, as by then we will be into mid-April. Then things get a bit easier after that for the next 25 years,” he said.
After fasting all through the day, Muslims are then expected to attend one of the many places of worship open in Calgary to listen to the imam recite chapters from the Quran and say special prayers. It is usual for the final chapter to be concluded on the 27th night of Ramadan, called the Night of Power.
Islam allows for some people to be excused from fasting, including the elderly, those with terminal diseases, young children, those who travelling and women who are menstruating. Other believers who miss the fast are expected to make it up at a later time.
Mahmood noted that Ramadan is also a time of reflection and in Calgary, imams have taken the opportunity to speak directly with younger Muslims about the true meaning of Islam. They will also talk about current religious issues and terrorism troubles affecting many parts of the world.
This year, several imams are arriving from the United Kingdom to preach at some Calgary locations.
“The mosques can get very busy,” he said. “Last year, one of the gatherings had over 2,000 people. I could hardly even get into the parking lot.”
The end of Ramadan will be marked with a day of communal prayer throughout the city, followed by private get-togethers where friends and family celebrate with a feast.
Before prayers begin, each head of a household is expected to make a charitable donation, called Fitra, to a just cause on behalf of everyone in the home. This year’s amount is set at $9 a person.
Mahmood is encouraging followers to donate to a local charity such as the Food Bank, Mustard Seed or the Red Cross in Calgary. However, it is up to the individual to decide where that money goes.
Special evening prayers will take place across Calgary during the month at the following locations.