Islam is a religion with more than a billion followers. Every year Muslims observe a month of fasting called Ramadan. This is what it’s all about.
Muslims fast from dawn until sunset for every day of the designated month. The fast includes abstaining from food, drink, tobacco and any sinful behavior such as lying and fighting. All healthy adult Muslims are obligated to fast during the month of Ramadan. There are several exceptions to this rule including pregnancy, illness and travelling.
The month of fasting is determined by the lunar calendar. Ramadan takes places in the ninth month of the year based on the crescent moon.
Ramadan celebrates the first revelation given to Muhammad in the year 610 AD. This experience began a series of revelations to Muhammad, and these now make up Islam’s holy book, the Quran.
The suhur is the meal eaten before dawn to begin the fast, and it is accompanied by the first prayer of the day. Many Muslims rise early in the morning to eat this meal. Some then go back to sleep before their day begins. Parents often wake their children with drums or music to begin the meal.
Iftar is the meal eaten to end the fast. This has become a celebration and social gathering among friends, family and neighbors. These meals can be quite large with lots of food and dessert (it’s ending an all-day fast, after all!).
Islam promotes generous giving and charity. Many Muslims give a larger portion during Ramadan and often invite the poor and needy to join them for meals.
Muslims are encouraged to increase their spiritual practices during Ramadan, like reading the entire Quran and attending the mosque for prayer.
Different Islamic cultures have adopted various means of celebration and decoration. Some festivities include hard-boiled egg wars, flying kites and fireworks. Some people go door to door to wish others a happy holiday and to receive traditional treats.
In places with extreme sunlight hours (Iceland and Norway) or winter sunlight hours (Australia), Muslims are permitted to follow fasting hours of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, they could be fasting for 22 hou
The purpose of the fast is to cleanse the soul and recommit to spiritual devotion and worship. It is a time of increased effort and dedication.
Eid al-Fitr is the holiday marking the end of Ramadan and the end of fasting. This day has specific prayers and traditions which are celebrated differently from country to country. In many traditions, this is a Christmas-like day where children receive money and gifts.
Ramadan has become a commercial holiday as well. Many stores have exclusive Ramadan sales during the month, and television networks air special programs. Like Western holidays, Ramadan is all about spending time with family and loved ones. Observers wish each other well and share greeting cards on social media. Work slows down, and people come together to worship and spend time together.
If you have Muslim friends or neighbors, be sure to wish them a happy Ramadan! It’s a special time of the year, and now you know what it’s all about.