Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ramadan in Libya

My website has been down for quite some time because it needs some serious updating. I've had a few requests for the information from my page about Ramadan in Libya. So I've decided to post it here on my blog. Eventually I will get to work on updating my site... I'm just too busy these days.

What is Ramadan?

On approximately August 31st, 2008, Muslims around the world will begin the month-long fast of Ramadan. Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset. (Note: Because the beginning of Islamic lunar months depends on the actual sighting of the new moon, the start and end dates for Ramadan may vary.)

The fast is performed to learn discipline, self-restraint and generosity, while obeying God's commandments. Fasting (along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and pilgrimage to Mecca) is one of the "five pillars" of Islam. Because Ramadan is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days earlier each year. The end of Ramadan will be marked by communal prayers called "Eid Al-Fitr," or Feast of the Fast-Breaking, on approximately September 30, 2008.

Muslims look forward to Ramadan as a period of spiritual reflection and renewal. It is also a time when people of other faiths can learn more about Islam.

The Quran, Islam's revealed text, states: "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint...Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting..." (Chapter 2, verses 183 and 185)

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told his companions: "God has said: 'Fasting is like a shield. A person who fasts experiences two joys. He is joyful when he breaks his fast, and he is joyful when he meets his Lord.'" (Hadith Qudsi, Hadith 10)



Fasting is compulsory for those who are mentally and physically fit, past the age of puberty, in a settled situation (Not traveling), and are sure fasting is unlikely to cause real physical or mental injury.

EXEMPTIONS FROM FASTING (some exemptions are optional)
  • Children under the age of puberty (Young children are encouraged to fast as much as they are able.)
  • People who are mentally incapacitated or not responsible for their actions
  • The elderly
  • The sick
  • Travelers who are on journeys of more than about 50 miles
  • Pregnant women and nursing mothers
  • Women who are menstruating
  • Those who are temporarily unable to fast must make up the missed days at another time or feed the poor.

Special prayers, called taraweeh, are performed after daily nighttime prayer. Lailat ul-Qadr ("Night of Power" or "Night of Destiny") marks the anniversary of the night on which the Prophet Muhammed first began receiving revelations from God, through the angel Gabriel. Muslims believe that Lailat ul-Qadr is one of the last odd-numbered nights of Ramadan.

  • Breaking the daily fast with a drink of water and dates
  • Reading the entire Quran during Ramadan
  • Social visits are encouraged


  • Eid begins with special morning prayers on the first day of Shawwal, the month following Ramadan on the Islamic lunar calendar.
  • It is forbidden to perform an optional fast during Eid because it is a time for relaxation.
  • During Eid Muslims greet each other with the phrase "Taqabbalallah ta'atakum," or "May God accept your deeds" and "Eid Mubarak", meaning "blessed Eid".
Ramadan and Eid in Libya

The month of Ramadan is waited for eagerly by Libyans. In the weeks preceding Ramadan, housewives take stock of their kitchens and replace and renew their dishes and cooking utensils, for there will be a great deal of cooking done during the month. Some foods are made especially in Ramadan.

The fast begins about ten minutes before the Fajr prayer at sunrise, and is not broken until Maghrib prayer at sunset. Traditionally the fast is broken by eating three dates and drinking water or milk. A unique Libyan soup made with a meat and tomato based broth, chick peas, parsley, orzo noodles and flavored with mint is an important part of the Ramadan meal. Other dishes are umbatan - potato slices that are stuffed with minced meat and spices and then deep fried, stuffed green peppers, stuffed swiss chard (similar to stuffed grape leaves), pizza, savoury pastries, various pasta dishes and salads.

Social visits are a very important feature of Ramadan, Libyans often invite friends and family to share their evening meal. Muslims are taught that God bestows blessings on those that share their food, and rewards are given for even offering so much as a sip of water to someone who has been fasting.

After the meal many people go to their neighborhood mosques to pray the evening prayer and also a special prayer called taraweeh which is said only during Ramadan. Usually the Imam or leader of the prayers will complete the recitation of the entire Quran within the month - each evening reciting a portion until it is finished. Going to the mosque provides not only spiritual benefits, but also promotes a sense of community spirit as neighbors and friends have a chance to meet and exchange greetings and news.

Another aspect of Ramadan is the distribution of charity to the poor. Muslims who are able, are obligated to pay alms before the end of the month. Usually this is done in the last two or three days before the Feast of Eid Al-Fitr is celebrated.

Businesses and shops are open in Libya during Ramadan, but the working hours for most employees are shortened to enable them to be home to prepare their fast-breaking meal. Grocery stores and most shops close shortly before sunset and open again after the evening prayers. Suks and shops are especially busy the last two weeks of Ramadan as people are out buying new clothes to wear for the feast days. Visitors to Libya should be aware that restaurants close during the day and eating in public is frowned upon, even if you are not a Muslim.

The sighting of the new moon denotes the end of Ramadan. The following day is a feast day called Eid Al-Fitr and is marked by special prayers for the occasion. Everyone who can afford to, has bought new clothes to wear for the Eid. Those that were unable to buy new clothing make sure to wear something clean and freshly pressed. Men and boys often wear the Libyan national costume for this special event. The people make their way to the mosque or other area that has been prepared for the Eid prayers. While the worshippers are waiting for everyone to assemble they recite the following phrases in Arabic:

"God is great,
God is great,
There is no God but God!...
God is great,
God is great,
And all praise is due to God!"

All around the town, in every neighborhood, and from every direction, you can hear these phrases being recited in an almost musical tone. After all the worshippers have gathered, the Eid prayer is performed and the Imam gives a sermon to the congregation.

The Eid celebration lasts for three days. In the course of this time everyone will pay visits to family and friends. Special sweets and pastries are made just for the occasion. Children are given gifts of money, candy and toys. Many Libyans take their children to the zoo or the amusement park, and it is common for people to have their photographs taken by professional photographers in studios, or for those who live in Tripoli, in the Green Square.


  1. Hi Khadija, and thank you so much for your great post on Ramadan. I am travelling to North Africa at the end of next week and will be there - in Tunisia - for the last 10 days of the month. Your information will help me - a non-Muslim - know what to expect and how to behave!

    Best Wishes

  2. "There is no God but God"
    i think the translation will be better if you use:
    "There is no god but allah"


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