Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان, Ramaḍān) is a Muslim religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, believed to be the month in which the Qur'an began to be revealed. The name "Ramadan" is taken from the name of this month; the word itself derived from an Arabic word for 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.
Laylat al-Qadr, which falls during the last third, commemorates the revelation of the first verses of the Qur'an and is considered the most holy night of the year. Ramadan ends with the holiday Eid ul-Fitr, on which feasts are held. During the month following Ramadan, called Shawwal, Muslims are encouraged to fast for a further six days.
Practices during Ramadan
The most prominent event of this month is the daytime fasting (sawm) practiced by most observant Muslims. Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world get up before dawn to eat the Suhoor meal (the pre dawn meal) and perform their fajr prayer. They break their fast when the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib (sunset), is due.
During Ramadan, Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual activities during fasting hours are also forbidden.[Qur'an 2:187] 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. 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, intended to make Muslims more generous and charitable. Muslims can eat after the sun has set.
Pregnant women, the elderly, the ill and children are all exempt from fasting as lack of food could damage health.
Prayer and reading of the Qur'an
In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur'an.
Sunni Muslims tend to perform the recitation of the entire Qur'an by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, which are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (‘Juz', which is 1/30 of the Qur'an) is recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Qur'an has been completed. Tarawih is an Arabic phrase referring to those extra prayers. This prayer is performed after salah of Isha'a, but before the Wit'r Rakat.
Muslims also pay Zakaat (only applicable if one can afford it) during the month. For those who qualify to pay Zakaat, as per the Islamic 'Nisab' (that is those whose wealth exceeds their necessities), of the leftover of their wealth earned in that Islamic calendar year. Although Zakaat can be paid any time of the year, it has to be calculated on a year to year basis, and many Muslims use Ramadan as the month for calculation and disbursement.
Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs 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.
Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it, this can involve buying new clothes, shoes and other items of need. There is also a social aspect involved - the preparing of special foods and inviting people for the Iftar 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 (the meal to end the fast) - these markets then re-open and stay open for a good part of the night. Muslims can be seen shopping, eating, spending time with their friends and family during the evening hours.
Events during and after Ramadan
Laylat al-Qadr (Arabic: لیلة القدر) (also known as Shab-e-Qadr in Persian), literally the "Night of Decree or Night of Measures", is the anniversary of two very important dates in Islam that occurred in the month of Ramadan. Muslims believe that it was the night of the Laylat al-Qadr that the Quran's first verse was revealed. The exact night of the Laylat al-Qadr is only known to God and Muhammed but he chose to keep it to himself so that Muslims won't pray only that night. That is why Muhammad indicated that it was one of the last ten odd nights of Ramadan.
The Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر) marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted. The Eid falls after 29 or 30 days of fasting, as per the lunar sighting. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fast, a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor (‘Zakat al-Fitr’), everyone puts on their best, preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends. The prayer is two rakaahs only, and it is an optional prayer as opposed to the compulsory 5 daily prayers. According to one current school of thought (Ankaboot), it is suggested that North American Muslims arrange their work-schedule for Eid by requesting the two most likely days of Eid as Holidays or simply as days off from work. This allows for quality family time, and is akin to the Christian/North American tradition of taking Christmas and Christmas eve off as holidays. This also allows for time off to celebrate the Eid prayer at a mosque and with family. The fast always ends after 29 or 30 days of fasting, and thus the request would be for the 29th and 30th day after the start of the fast.
Muslims are encouraged to fast six days in Shawwal, the month following Ramadan that begins after Eid ul-Fitr; these days need not be consecutive. According to hadith, one who fasts the month of Ramadan and six days during Shawaal will be rewarded as though he fasted the entire year.
Mukkoti Ekadasi • Bakrid • Bhogi • Pongal • Makara Sankraanti • Kanuma • Ratha Saptami • Bheesma Ekadasi • Moharram (Peerla Pandaga) • Maha Shivaratri • Holi • Ugaadi • Sri Raama Navami • Mahavir Jayanthi • Miladinabic • Good Friday • Easter Sunday • Hanumaan Jayanthi • Bonalu • Varalakshmi Vratam • Janmaastami (Krishnaastami) • Vinaayaka Chavithi • Undraalla Thaddhe • Ramzaan • Bathukamma Panduga • Aayudha Pooja • Vijaya Dasami • Dasara • Bonalu • Batukamma • Atla Tadde • Deepavali • Naagula Chavithi • Christmas
Anant Chaturdashi • Baisakhi • Durga Puja • Eid-ul-Fitr • Gita Jayanti • Gudi Padwa • Guru Govind Singh's Birthday • Guru Nanak's Birthday • Satya Sai Baba Janmadinam • Kumbh Mela • Mahavir Jayanti • Muharram • Onam • Rakhi (Raksha Bandhan) • Vasant Panchami