Home > Islam > Ramadhan - The Holy Month of fasting

Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar and the holiest of the four holy months. It begins with the sighting of the new moon after which all physically mature and healthy Muslims are obliged to abstain from all food, drink, gum chewing, any kind of tobacco use, and any kind of sexual contact between dawn and sunset. However, that is merely the physical component of the fast; the spiritual aspects of the fast include refraining from gossiping, lying, slandering and all traits of bad character. All obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. Purity of thought and action is paramount. Ordained in the Quran, the fast is an exacting act of deeply personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of God-consciousness. The act of fasting redirects the hearts away from worldly activities, towards God.

The month of Ramadhan is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, doing good deeds and spending time with family and friends. The fasting is intended to help Muslims develop thaqwa (piousness), self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity. It also reminds of the suffering of the poor, who may rarely get to eat well. It is common to have one meal (known as the Sahar), just before sunrise and another (known as the Iftar), directly after sunset. This meal will commonly consist of dates, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him. Because Ramadhan is a time to spend with friends and family, the fast will often be broken by different Muslim families coming together to share in an evening meal.

Ramadhan derives from the Arabic root: ramida or ar-ramad, meaning scorching heat or dryness. Since Muslims are commanded to fast during the month of Ramadhan, it is believed that the month's name may refer to the heat of thirst and hunger, or because fasting burns away one's past sins. Muslims believe that God began revealing the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during Ramadhan (in the year 610 C.E.). The Qur'an commands:

O ye who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious) Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting..." (Chapter 2, verses 183 and 185).

Fasting during Ramadhan did not become an obligation for Muslims until 624 C.E., at which point it became the third of the Five Pillars of Islam. The others are:
  • Shahadah (faith)
  • Salah (prayer)
  • Zakah (charitable giving)
  • Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah).
Ramadhan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation.

During the Fast of Ramadhan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. We are not supposed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. The fast is resumed the next morning.

According to the Holy Quran : One may eat and drink at any time during the night "until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight : then keep the fast until night".

The good that is acquired through the fast can be destroyed by five things :
  1. Telling of a lie
  2. Slander
  3. Denouncing someone behind his back
  4. A false oath
  5. Greed or covetousness
These are considered offensive at all times, but are most offensive during the Fast of Ramadhan. During Ramadhan, it is common for Muslims to go to the Masjid and spend several hours praying and reading the Quran.

Another aspect of Ramadhan is that that one of the last five odd-numbered nights of the month is the Laylat ul-Qadr, the "Night of Power" or "Night of Destiny." It is the holiest night of the holiest month; it is the night on which God first began revealing the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the angel Jibril (Gabriel). This is a time for especially fervent and devoted prayer, and the rewards and blessings associated with such are manifold. Qur'an says that praying throughout this one night is better than a thousand months of prayer. No one knows exactly which night it is; it is one of God's mysteries. Additionally, Muslims are urged to read the entire Qur'an during the month of Ramadhan.

When the first crescent of the new moon has been officially sighted by a reliable source, the month of Ramadhan is declared over, and the month of Shawwal begins. The end of Ramadhan is marked by a day known as Eid ul-Fitr, the "Festival of Fast-breaking and Alms Giving." It is a joyous time beginning with a special prayer, and accompanied by celebration, festive meals and sometimes very modest gift-giving, especially to children.

When Ramadhan ends, Muslims give charity in a locally prescribed amount, calculated to feed one poor person in that region for one day. This is known as fitra, and is meant as another reminder of the suffering endured by many. Many Muslims also take this occasion to pay the annual alms which are due to the poor and needy, known as Zakah (2.5% of assets).

At the beginning of Ramadhan, it is appropriate to wish Muslims "Ramadhan Mubarak" which means "Blessed Ramadhan." At its conclusion, you may say "Eid Mubarak”.

Eid Fiesta
Eid-ul-Fitr means the 'Festival of Alms-Giving' (Fitr is related to fitra). The fast of Ramadhan is broken with special prayers and festivities. 'Fitr' is derived from fitra or 'alms'. Celebrated on the first day of the new moon in Shawwal, it marks the end of Ramadhan.

In the morning everyone take bath, wear new or clean clothes, apply perfume, eat dates or some other sweet before walking to the Masjidh for Eid prayers. Men wear white clothes because white symbolizes purity and austerity. On this day, according to the Qur'an, Allah has intended a dole for every Muslim who is free and is in possession of alms worthy capital. This Eid-ul-Fitr alms are given to the poor on Eid-ul-Fitr.

The Eid-special prayer is performed in the morning in the Masjidh or in the Idgah (A clean openspace meant for prayers). Charitable gift, called Sadaqathul Fitr, is a dole to break the fast. It is to be given to a needy person as thanksgiving. Even one who has not fasted is expected to give alms. The amount to be gifted must be in excess of one's essential needs and free from all encumbrances of debt. Food grains or their cost are permitted to be donated. The Quran also specifies the grain and their quantities. A person should give 3.5 lb of wheat or its flour per head, or 7lb of barley per head or their cost. The Eid Prayer is performed. These prayers can be anytime between sunrise and just afternoon. Even women in veil attend the prayers in special chambers.

On this day, Women prepare sweets at home. Vermicelli cooked in sweetened milk, is popular. People then go for Congregational Prayer. After that the lunch is usually Biriyani.

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