Muslims across the world are celebrating the start of the fasting month of Ramadan.
What are the dates of Ramadan?
Because the cycle of the lunar calendar does not match the solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan shifts by approximately 11 days each year. In 2011, Ramadan began on August 1st. In 2012 Ramadan began on July 20th. In 2013, Ramadan is expected to begin on the evening of July 8th with the first full day of fasting on July 9th.
The ending of Ramadan is marked by the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, which takes place either 29 or 30 days after the beginning of the month. On Eid ul-Fitr, morning prayers are followed by feasting and celebration among family and friends. This year Eid ul-Fitr will most probably fall on Wednesday, August 7.
What is the history of Ramadan?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. The term Ramadan literally means scorching in Arabic. It was established as a Holy Month for Muslims after the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 CE on the occasion known as Laylat al-Qadr, frequently translated as "the Night of Power.
Observance of Ramadan is mandated in the Quran, Surah 2, Ayah 185:
“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.”
What are the daily fasting requirements?
During the month of Ramadan, most Muslims fast from dawn to sunset with no food or water. Before sunrise many Muslims have the Suhur or predawn meal. At sunset families and friends gather for Iftar which is the meal eaten by Muslims to break the fast. Many Muslims begin the meal by eating dates as the Prophet used to do.
This ritual fast known as, Sawm, is one of the five pillars of Islam, and requires that individuals abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse.
What are the expectations towards charity?
Charity is an important part of Ramadan. The fast emphasizes self-sacrifice and using the experience of hunger to grow in empathy with the hungry. During Ramadan, Muslim communities work together to raise money for the poor, donate clothes and food, and hold iftar dinners for the less fortunate.
What scriptural study do Muslims take part in?
Many Muslims use Ramadan to read the entire Quran or read the Quran daily. Many communities divide the Quran into daily reading segments that conclude on Eid ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan.
Can non-Muslims participate?
Non-Muslims are free to participate in Ramadam. Many non-Muslims fast and even pray with their Muslim friends or family members. Non-Muslims are often invited to attend prayer and iftar dinners.
Those wishing to be polite to someone who is fasting for Ramadan may greet them with Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem, which mean Have a Blessed or Generous Ramadan.
What is the 'goal' of Ramadan?
In general, the practices of Ramadan are meant to purify oneself from thoughts and deeds which are counter to Islam. By removing material desires, one is able to focus fully on devotion and service to God. Many Muslims go beyond the physical ritual of fasting and attempt to purge themselves of impure thoughts and motivations such as anger, cursing, and greed.
Do all Muslims take part in Ramadan fasting?
Most Muslims believe Ramadan fasting is mandatory, but there are some groups that do not. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, people who are seriously sick, travelers, or those at health risk should not fast. Children that have not gone through puberty are also not required to fast during the month Ramadan.