For Muslims all over the world, Ramadan (also spelled Ramadhan) is the most important event in the Islamic calendar. It is a religious observance that happens on the ninth month, called Ramadan, of the Islamic calendar. During the whole Ramadan season (about 29 to 30 days), Muslims do not eat or drink from the brink of dawn (about one hour and 20 minutes before sunrise) until sunset. In the Qur'an it provides that "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attend God-conciousness" (2:183)
Ramadan is a time for Muslims to take a break from worldly concerns and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment, establishing a link between God Almighty and themselves by prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others. It is the time when Muslims offer more prayers than usual, ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance for the future, ask for help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
Origin of Name
The name "Ramadan" itself is derived from an Arabic word “rmd” as in "ramida" or "ar-ramad," denoting intense heat, scorched ground, and shortness of rations. It is considered the most venerated and blessed month of the Islamic year. Prayers, sawm (fasting), charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month.
It is a belief that Ramadan or Ramazan (Arabic: رمضان, Ramaḍān) is the time when the Qur’an was revealed through the Angel Gabriel to deliver it to Prophet Muhammad. ('The month of Ramadhan in which was revealed the Qur'an") (2:185), as a time of fasting (sawm), Muslims do not eat or drink anything from dawn until sunset.
Fasting (sawm) is the most important part of the event. It begins just before dawn when Muslims eat a light meal (suhoor), the pre-dawn meal and perform the fajr prayer. They do not eat or drink anything after this prayer is said until the fourth prayer of the day called maghrib (sunset). Muslims eat and drink after sunset until the next day’s fajr. Fasting teaches the person patience, sacrifice and humility.
Muslims are expected to put more effort in following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual thoughts and activities during fasting hours are also forbidden. Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God Almighty. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Properly observing the fast is supposed to induce a comfortable feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, sacrifice, and sympathy for those who are less fortunate. It is also intended to make Muslims more generous and charitable.
Prayer reading of the Qur’an
Aside from fasting, Muslims read the entire Qur’an. The Sunni Muslims, for example, recite the entire Qur’an through special prayers called tarawih. It is held in mosques every evening. Tarawih is performed after the prayer called salah.
Zakat is the Islamic obligatory alms tax on one’s wealth. It is another important practice during Ramadan and given by those who can afford it. It is done according to the Islamic Nisab or those whose wealth exceeds their necessities and is computed based on the leftover of their wealth earned in that Islamic calendar. Although it can be paid anytime of the year, many Muslims use Ramadan as the time for calculating and disbursing the amount.
Ramadhan is an occasion when Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends, as well as for the poor and needy. Gifts include new clothes, shoes and other items of need. The social aspect of the occasion involves preparing special foods and inviting people for the meal (the meal to break the Fast).
In many Muslim and non-Muslim countries with large Muslim populations, markets close down in the evening to enable people to perform prayers and consume the Iftar meal. These markets then re-open and stay open for a good part of the night. Muslims can be seen shopping, eating, and spending time with their friends and family during the evening hours.
Muslims with severe health problems are exempt from fasting. One reason for this could be that lack of food and liquid in these situations could be detrimental to one’s health. While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, (which ends at puberty), many children try to complete as many fasts as possible to practice for later life.
There is no restriction on what is eaten by Muslims provided it is prepared in the halal manner. Recommended food items include dates, milk, water, honey, olives and figs — all for their nutritional properties and religious significance. Main meals include fish, chips, spag bol, curries and couscous.
Eid, or ‘Id, means “festival” or “celebration” in Arabic, and the festival
following Ramadhan is known as “Eid ul-Fitr” (the Feast of Fast Breaking).
Eid ul-Fitr is a unique festival celebrated for three days. It has no connection with any historical event nor is it related to the changes of seasons or cycles of agriculture. It is not a festival related in any way to the affairs of the world.
Its significance is purely spiritual. It is the event when Muslims thank God for having given them the will, the strength and the endurance to observe fasting and obey His commandment during the holy month of Ramadan.
In the Muslim world, the day brings rejoicing and happiness which a Muslim feels after successfully completing an important task. It is an event when gifts are exchanged while friends and family gather to pray in congregation.