Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, a holy month for Muslims, who fast, pray and practice introspection during this time. This year, Ramadan begins on April 12 and ends on May 12.
During Ramadan, adults of Muslim faith do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, practising fasting, which is a fundamental principle of Islam. At the end of the daily fast, during the night, Muslims share meals with each other, with family or friends which are called iftar. As fasting is seen as a spiritual principle, Ramadan is also a time where people abstain from anything impure such as alcohol consumption, cigarettes, bad behaviors, and impure thoughts, and instead dedicate themselves to prayer and charity.
Ramadan is not a federal holiday in the United States.
One of the main prophets of Islam was Muhammad. It is believed that in 610 A.D. Allah started sending him messages and revelations through the angel Gabriel. These revelations were only delivered during Ramadan, and it was through the course of five Ramadans that Muhammad compiled the messages into a 114 chapter book that would become known as the Quran, the holy book of Islamic faith, that Muslims believe holds the words of Allah.
As the Quran, which contains the guidance for Muslims, was revealed during Ramadan, this became a holy month in the Islamic faith, and the Quran orders that fasting should be the way to observe this month.
It is the Quran that lays out the Five Pillars of Islam, that Muslims should follow strictly in order to achieve salvation. These are:
- Shahada, a declaration of faith to the only one God and his prophet Muhammad.
- Prayer, as Muslims are meant to pray five times a day.
- Zakat, practicing charitable actions.
- Fasting, the foundation of Ramadan and the way to achieve taqwa.
- Pilgrimage, every Muslim who is able to should travel to Mecca at least once in their life.
Ramadan Practices and Rules
Ramadan is, above all, a time for Muslims to practice introspection and better themselves, by practicing self-discipline and control, as well as a time to strengthen their faith and devotion. This is why fasting is practiced during Ramadan, as it is believed to cleanse the soul, and redirect the heart away from worldly sins and into spiritual improvement. While fasting is mandatory for all Muslim adults, people with medical conditions, who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or traveling are exempt from practicing it. In order for the fast to be valid, people must have the intention to fast before dawn.
The two meals of the day during Ramadan happen before dawn and after sunset, and are called suhoor and iftar, respectively. The iftar is usually a communal meal, with traditional dishes and rich desserts being served. Muslims usually begin each meal by breaking their fast by eating three dates.
After each meal, people perform a prayer, and they are meant to pray five times each day, with extra nightly prayers being encouraged during Ramadan, although they are not mandatory. Muslims are also called to read the thirty sections of the Quran during the thirty days of Ramadan.