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April 13 is the first day of the fasting month. Here's everything you need to know

April 13 marks the first day of Ramadan for Muslims around the world. It is the beginning of a month-long period of fasting, prayer, reflection and family bonding. 

The exact dates of Ramadan are usually determined by the phases of the moon. Typically, a crescent moon will occur a day after the new moon. This means that Muslims can estimate when Ramadan will start in advance. That said, many Muslims prefer to begin Ramadan by actually seeing the crescent moon in the sky. 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about Ramadan. 

(Related: Ramadan 2021: Break Fast at These Halal Restaurants in Singapore)

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What is Ramadan?

Ramadan falls yearly on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is typically observed by Muslims around the world and is considered to be the holiest month of the year. During this month, able-bodied Muslims who are not pregnant, menstruating, sick or elderly, will fast from dawn to dusk daily.  This is a requirement in the Islam religion as it is an act of devotion and dedication to God. 

The act of fasting is meant to teach individuals how to discipline their body and mind and to restrain themselves from earthly pleasures. It is also meant to create empathy for people who are less fortunate. As a result, many Muslims engage in charitable acts during the month. 

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When do Muslims start and end their fast?

Muslims will typically begin their fasting day with a meal right before dawn. This is called sahur. The timing of this meal varies daily and goes according to when the sun is set to rise.

This month, sahur will take place between 5.42 am and 5.50 am. Muslims are encouraged to check the timings regularly. 

During this meal, Muslims are allowed to eat and drink water. After which, they will cease all food and drinks till sunset.

Again, the timings of iftar, which is when Muslims break their fast, will differ daily. This year, the timings will range between 7.07 pm and 7.10 pm. Muslims usually make iftar a family meal and they break their fast together by consuming dates before the meal, followed by prayers. 

(Related: Ramadan 2021: What to Eat During Sahur and Iftar)

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How can I support a friend who is fasting?

The best thing you can do to help a Muslim friend through this month of fasting is to simply be respectful. Avoid asking them questions that you can easily find the answers to yourself online. Also, try to remember not to offer them food throughout the day. If you would like to meet up with your Muslim friends during this month, try to be flexible and offer to meet in the evening instead. Remember that iftar is also often a family event so try not to be offended if a friend cannot make it. 

An important thing to remember is also to not be nosy. If you see a Muslim friend not fasting, remember that there are many reasons why they may not be fasting that day and that it is not polite to question them on it. 

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Are there any local Ramadan traditions?

In Singapore, Ramadan is usually celebrated widely with special Ramadan meals in restaurants, light-ups and Ramadan bazaars. It is typically a bright and exciting season for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. 

This year, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many Ramadan events have been scaled back. While you will still be able to enjoy the stunning light-ups along Geylang Road and Sims Avenue between April 9 and May 23, you will not be able to walk through the lively bazaars this year. 

From April 9 to May 13, Geylang Serai will be taking their famous bazaar online. You will be able to order food, participate in activities such as exercise routines, and watch live art exhibitions all from the comfort of your own home. 

(Related: Ramadan 2020: Iftar Meals for Takeaway and Delivery)

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What happens after Ramadan?

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Hari Raya Puasa. The celebration is about acknowledging the month that has gone by, gaining forgiveness and enjoying food with family and community members. 

The day typically begins with prayers and then moves on to family visits. This is where younger family members will seek forgiveness from their elders. Green packets are also typically exchanged. 

Some families may also choose to wear outfits of the same colour or colour schemes. This is to symbolise family unity. That said, not every family practices this and it is a wonderful celebration regardless. 

For more on the Ramadan season, check these articles out:

(Related: Ramadan 2020: 6 of the Most Beautiful Mosques Around The World)