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Ramadan in Senegal: “A month of happiness and memory”

For children at our Children's Village in Zinguinchor, Senegal, Ramadan is a time to reflect and share
For children at our Children's Village in Zinguinchor, Senegal, Ramadan is a time to reflect and share

For Muslims across the world, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is considered the holiest of all the year. We take a look at what Ramadan means to children from our Children's Village in Ziguinchor, southern Senegal.

For Fodé, Edouard and Amy, Ramadan is a special time. It means hours of fasting – but feasting in the evenings too! Most importantly of all, it means kindness, sharing and forgiveness, and is a time of religious harmony that always brings out the best in people.

“During Ramadan, everybody is tired and most people are slimmer!”

13-year-old Fodé talks about the challenges faced during Ramadan: “During the day, all Muslims face exhaustion, hunger and thirst by avoiding things forbidden by the religion.”

He also talks with relish about mealtimes, which takes place around 6 o' clock in Ziguinchor: “At 6pm sharp people eat their bread accompanied by the quinquéliba drink”. Quinquéliba is a Senegalese drink made from brewed leaves and is traditionally taken when breaking fast. He also recalls the physical effects of Ramadan: “During Ramadan, everybody is tired and most people are slimmer!”

Edouard, who is 13 as well, talks about his sense of pride in the great generosity Ramadan brings out in people: “Africa is the continent of hospitality: the neighbour who arrives also shares the meal. Every traveller, every foreigner who arrives is invited because Ramadan is a period of sharing. It is rare that a family eats without foreign dinner guests around the bowl! At the end of the meal, all children say ‘thanks to mum and dad!’ Then I fetch some water and present it to every dinner guest by making a big bow as sign of respect, and I wait while each guest drinks.”

“During the month of Ramadan, Muslims and Christians share happiness”

A girl holding a Quranic plate at our Village in Kaolack, Senegal
This girl proudly holds up a Quranic plate at her Children's Village in Senegal

Amy, another 13-year-old boy, talks proudly of the opportunity Ramadan offers Muslims and Christians to share some of the key sentiments of both religions: “During the month of Ramadan, Muslims and Christians share happiness and enjoyment and avoid hurting between brothers and sisters, who help and love each other. Forgive others, share possessions with those who have nothing. In every religion, remember gestures such as pity, sweetness and kindness. The month of Ramadan is really a month of happiness and memory.”

Amy loves Ramadan, but he looks forward with anticipation as the month draws to a close: “It is the great period of preparation before the holy day that we all look forward to: the day of Aïd El-Fitr, which marks the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan.”

What does Ramadan mean to Muslims?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It begins when the crescent moon appears in the sky, and lasts until it is seen again, 29-30 days later.

While Ramadan lasts, all healthy adult Muslims must refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Smoking and engaging in sex are also forbidden at all times, while some traditions prohibit swearing as well. Food and drink is served daily, before sunrise and after sunset. Although Islam teaches that the rewards of fasting are always rich, they are believed to be multiplied during Ramadan.

Here in the UK, where July days can last for over 16 hours, Ramadan presents a particular challenge, and is a true test of devotion for all Muslims. But although 16 hours is a long time to go without a meal, fasting can bring to Muslims a sense of peace and spiritual wellbeing. It also encourages the development of self-control, and teaches them to sympathise with those in the world who must go without food out of necessity.

The importance of Zakat

As one of the five pillars of Islam, Zakat is an obligatory part of being a Muslim which takes on particular importance during Ramadan. Zakat is the act of giving a fixed proportion of one’s savings to the poor, and, like other good deeds, it is more heavily rewarded during this holy month.

If you are a Muslim celebrating Ramadan, you will no doubt be thinking about your Zakat donation. By choosing SOS Children, you can be sure your donation will help some of the world's most vulnerable children enjoy the childhood they deserve.

Find out more about making a Zakat donation to SOS Children.