Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, and is celebrated by Muslims as the most holy period of the year.
During a period of 29 or 30 days from the first sighting of the new moon, Islamic people celebrate by fasting and are encouraged to dedicate extra time to their religious activities. These activities include reading of the Quran, additional prayer time and visiting the Mosque for prayer more often. Other activities that distract from their faith are discouraged.
Understanding the Fast
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. The other four are belief, prayer, charity, and pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
During Ramadan, most Muslim people fast from food and drink from dawn to sunset each day. They are not required to go without food for the whole month of Ramadan. In fact, many Muslims have a pre-dawn meal, or Suhur, to start their day. At sunset, families and friends gather for a meal to break the fast, known as Iftar. Many start this evening meal with dates, as the Prophet did.
There are exceptions to those who are obligated to fast during Ramadan. These include small children, pregnant women and those who are sick or on a journey. The latter would be required to fast an equal number of days at another time.
The experience of hunger gained from fasting gives a deeper understanding of the poor who often go hungry. This is where charity plays a part in Ramadan, where Muslim communities work together to raise money to support the less fortunate.
Ending the Fast
The month of Ramadan ends with the Eid-al-Fitr holiday, where celebration and feasting follow the morning’s prayers.
With dinner feasts and gatherings at Mosques, Ramadan is a social time for Muslims as well, bringing a further sense of unity to the Islamic community.