- What is Ramadan?
Ramadan, the ninth month on the Muslim calendar,
is celebrated as the month when the first verses of
the Quran were said to be revealed to the prophet
Muhammad in 610 CE. Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of
Power, is thought to be the actual day when the
Quran was given to the prophet and usually falls
within the last 10 days of the holiday.
What is the purpose of Ramadan?
During Ramadan , observers are expected to abstain
from food, drink, and other pleasures from dawn to
dusk. Removing these comforts from daily routine is
intended to focus the mind on prayer, spirituality,
and charity and to purify the body and mind.
Muslims are also expected to abstain from impurities
such as gossip and cursing.
Exceptions to the fast:
Several different groups are excused from fasting during Ramadan : pregnant women, people who are
mentally or physically ill, and sometimes women who
are breastfeeding. Children are not obligated to fast
until they hit puberty, although many choose to
observe the fast at least part of the month in
preparation for later years.
Sometimes political factors can also get in the way of
the fast. In China , celebrating Ramadan has been
banned by the government in Xinjian province,
where ethnic Uighurs practice Islam. Last month,
tensions between Uighurs and police force s led to
widespread riots resulting in the deaths of some 35
The start of Ramadan is determined by the moon
The exact start of Ramadan is often up in the air until
just before the holiday begins because it is
determined by a sighting of the new moon. Many
places still depend on someone seeing the new moon
with the naked eye in order to declare the holiday. As
a result, Ramadan’s start can vary from place to place
because of weather conditions and other factors that
affect how easily the moon is seen.
However, countries are increasingly relying on
astronomical calculations and observatories, leading
to a more uniform start time. The Arab Gulf states, as
well as Egypt , have declared Wednesday, July 10, to
be the first full day of this year’s Ramadan, according
The date changes every year:
Islam functions on a lunar calendar that doesn’t quite
line up with the solar Gregorian calendar that the
secular world uses. So while Muslim holidays are
always the same day on the Muslim calendar, they
happen on different days on the Gregorian calendar –
typically moving 11 or 12 days earlier each year. In
2012, Ramadan began on July 19.
A month of big changes
In countries where Muslims are the
majority, Ramadan has a drastic impact on daily
life. Egypt p ushes the clocks back an hour during the
holy month so that the fast feels like it is ending
earlier and the evenings are lengthened. Work days
are made shorter during the month to accommodate
the additional time spent in prayer and in enjoying
festive meals to end the daily fast.
According to bankers and economists in Muslim
countries, Ramadan almost always ushers in a
month-long period of inflation as people drastically
increase the amount of money spent on clothing and
food. The prices of certain staples go up dramatically
– according to a former Monitor correspondent
in Cairo , during Ramadan a cup of tea can cost six
times its normal price . However, economic
productivity also declines because of the shorter
working hours and the general malaise among those
abstaining from food and water all day.
Ironically, many people gain weight during Ramadan.
They are more sedentary during the daytime, eat
richer food than normal at the fast-breaking iftar
meal in the evenings, and get the majority of their
daily calories at night, shortly before they go to sleep.
Traveling during Ramadan
Though it is the holiest month of the year, Ramadan
does not prohibit long-distance travel. Many Muslims will still celebrate even while in transit.
This year the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) , anticipating the holiday, issued a statement on
its website informing travelers of the increase in
religious activities they may see in airports, according
to the National Journal. Some of the practices include
reciting passages from the Quran, whispering
prayers, or performing ablution (the washing of the
If a non-Muslim wants to wish a fellow passenger a
happy Ramadan, they can say Ramadan Mubarak,
which means “have a blessed Ramadan.”
Charity is an important part of Ramadan
While most non-Muslims know of Ramadan for the
fasting, charity is also an important part of the month
Muslims are obliged to give charity on a regular basis
in the form of either Zakat, which is mandatory
giving, or Sadaqa, which is voluntary and meant to go
beyond the mere religious obligations. During
Ramadan, the rewards of charity are considered
greater. As a result, many Muslims will choose to give
more during the month.
The Five Pillars of Islam
Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, the
practices that all Muslims must follow. They are as
Shahada: This is a profession of belief in the one true
God. The declaration usually goes as follows: “There
is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet and
Salat: Praying five time daily facing the direction of
Mecca. Muslims must practice ablution before the
Zakat: The giving of charity to the poor and needy.
Sawm: Fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Hajj: The pilgrimage to Mecca that each Muslim must
make at least once in his or her lifetime.
Eid ul Fitr
The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid ul Fitr , a large
festival to celebrate the end of the fast. The
celebration begins as soon as the new moon is sighted in the sky. During Eid, Muslims celebrate by
putting on their best clothing, attending large
processions, giving gifts, spending time with their
family, and having a large meal during the day.
Muslims must also contribute a certain amount to
charity so that the poor may also celebrate the
breaking of the fast.
Eid ul Fitr is also considered a time of reverance.
Muslims praise Allah (God) for helping them get
through the month, and ask for forgiveness for the
sins they’ve committed.
Source: The Christian science monitor.
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