Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on the moon. The western dates of the holiday move up 10 days every year. This year, Ramadan begins Nov. 16 and ends Dec. 14. During this month, Muslims fast and concentrate on worship and contemplation.
Ramadan is celebrated to keep with the commandment in chapter two, verse 185 of the Holy Quran.
Allah states, “O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it has been prescribed to those before you in order that you may attain taqwa.”
Taqwa implies guarding one’s self from evil and includes all elements of righteousness, reflecting piety, morality, and purification of heart and mind.
During the fast, strict restraints are placed on Muslims’ daily lives. They are not permitted to eat or drink during daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also prohibited during fasting. It is common for Muslims to go to the Mosque and spend several hours studying the Quran.
In addition to the five daily prayers, Muslims recite a special prayer called the “night prayer” during Ramadan. It is usually two to three times as long as the daily prayers, and some Muslims spend the entire night in prayer.
During Ramadan, the entire Quran must be read. At the end of the day, the fast is broken with a prayer and a meal, after which they go out and visit family and friends. The fast is continued the next morning.
All Muslims who have reached puberty are expected to participate in the fast. This excludes the elderly, those experiencing illness, women in advanced stages of pregnancy, women who are menstruating, those undertaking a strenuous journey and those involved in extremely strenuous occupations (a soldier in battle, for example).
These people must, however, take restitution by giving charity in the amount needed to feed a person for a day and fasting the number of days missed at a later time during some time the next year.
The night of day 27 of Ramadan is known as the Night of Power. It is important because it is commemorated as the night Mohammed received the first revelation of the Quran.
Muslims spend this night in prayer thanking Allah for his bounties and his forgiveness. They celebrate the end of the feast with the festival of Breaking the Feast.
During this time, gifts are exchanged and families gather for large meals and to pray in congregation. Sometimes fairs are even held to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
This holiday is very significant and highly esteemed to those participating in the Islamic faith.