According to the 2011 Islam is the largest non-Christian faith in Wales, with about 46,000 Muslims living in Wales. The earliest recorded connections between Wales and the Muslim world dates back to the early 12th Century, and there has a Somali and Yemeni Islamic community in Cardiff since the mid-19th century, founded by seafarers to Cardiff Docks. The first purpose-built mosque was erected in Cardiff in 1947. Today, Wales has about 40 mosques, most of which are in Cardiff, with others in Aberystwyth, Bangor, Barry, Haverfordwest, Lampeter, Neath, Newport, Port Talbot, Swansea and Wrexham.
For Muslims, Ramadan starts tonight!!! - Wednesday 16th May, with Muslims beginning their first fast on Thurs 17th May. Ramadan lasts about a month - 29 or 30 days according to the Islamic calendar which is based on the moon. It is the most important month in the Islamic calendar, in which all Muslims who are fit and healthy to do so, fast (don’t eat or drink anything) between sunrise to sunset (which in the UK, at the moment, is about 17 hours).
The Prophet Muhammad is said to have received the Quran, the Islamic sacred text, from the God during the month. The Quran says the following about Ramadan:
“O you who believe, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you, that you may become righteous” (2:183)
Fasting is considered to be a time to exercise self-discipline, to cultivate a spiritual focus, and do more “good deeds”, especially charity. It can also be a very social time for Muslims, as many will break their fasts at the iftar at sunset with family and friends, or visit their local mosque to eat with the congregation (see http://mosqueiftar.com/ for a list of open iftar meals around the country that anyone can join). There is also an additional prayer Muslims engage in during Ramadan, the tarawih salah. It can last between thirty minutes to over an hour.
The fast itself usually starts with the suhur, or pre-dawn meal. From dawn up until sunset, the fasting Muslim will not eat or drink anything (even water). There is also an emphasis on abstaining from bad character traits, a often quoted hadith of the Prophet Muhammad is “whoever does not give up lying and evil actions in Ramadan, God has no need for them to give up their food or drink”.
At the end of the month, Muslims will celebrate with the eid al-fitr, the festival that marks the end of Ramadan – this is a bit like Christmas in that it involves a lot of food, friends, family, but also being grateful for what we have.
That’s all folks!