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What is Ramadan?

The holy month of Ramadan is a time for Muslims to seek spiritual insight, wisdom and draw closer to Allah. It is the holiest month in the Islamic, and the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar. Ramadan dates back to approximately 610 A.D., as this is the time when Allah was said to reveal the Quran to the prophet Muhammad. Because Ramadan celebrates the prophetic revelations given to Muhammad, the month is the most sacred time in the Islamic calendar. In addition to fasting, the Quran is read, studied, recited and meditated upon throughout the holy month. More than one billion Muslims worldwide celebrate Ramadan with prayer, fasting, and the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment and deeper devotion. Ramadan is also celebrated with greater charitable acts performed with a heart of worship, thanks and gratitude.

Muslims perform Azhr prayer on the second day of Ramadan at Al Akbar Mosque on July 11, 2013 in Surabaya, Indonesia.
Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

Ramadan begins with a new moon, and those who are healthy and over the age of 12 will spend the month fasting from daylight to sundown. There are five pillars in the Islamic faith and fasting is one. They are as follows:

Five Pillars of Islam

  • Shahadah or declaring that God is the only God and Muhammad is God’s prophet or messenger.
  • Sawm or fasting, showing restraint and exhibiting self-control throughout the holy month of Ramadan
  • Salat or ritual prayer that occurs five times each day
  • Haji or the spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca that must occur at least once in a lifetime by healthy, able people
  • Zakat or the annual giving of 2.5% of one’s wealth to the poor and needy
  • Fasting, or Sawm, is used to promote deeper, spiritual reflection upon Allah and in return, create greater love for others.

Muslim families will eat a meal referred to as Suhoor in the morning before dawn, and before the Fajr prayer, that is the first of the five daily prayers. Fasting continues throughout the day until after sundown, when a rich meal known as Iftar is eaten. Iftar is eaten at sunset but before the Maghrib prayer, that is the fourth of the five ritual prayers performed daily. Ramadan is also a time when self-sacrifice is practiced. Though fasting is required throughout Ramadan, some Muslims may find they are unable to fast due to health reasons. They may substitute charitable works for fasting and then fast at a later date. Ramadan concludes with Eid al-Fitr or the Feast of Breaking the Fast.

Ramadan Links