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What is Ramadan ?

Ramadan is that time of year when Muslims recharge their spiritual batteries. For a whole month they fast from dawn to sunset, and offer additional prayers at night. After the end of Ramadan comes one of two Muslim festivals, a day of Eid. On this day Muslims thank God for His guidance and grace in helping them to control their baser desires and fulfill their spiritual needs.

Muslims agree on all the fundamentals of the fast. This makes the fasting a worldwide phenomenon observed by the devoted among the world's one billion Muslims as one international community. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year which follows a lunar callendar. Each month begins with a sighting of the moon's crescent and lasts 29 or 30 days until a sighting of the next month's crescent. Due to a difference of interpretation, some Muslims may begin and end Ramadan a day before others. One interpretation accepts the sighting anywhere in the world, whereas the other interpretation prefers to wait for a sighting closer to home. Since neither interpretation rejects the Islamic sources, Muslims remain one international community despite this interpretive variety.

Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an was revealed as a guidance for all mankind. It is a criterion by which to distinguish truth from falsehood. The Prophit Muhammad, on whom be peace, said that on each day of Ramadan God frees many souls from the fire of Hell. Muslims should introduce the Qur'an's teaching to others so that they too can have the opportunity to be free.

Fasting is a major feature of Ramadan. Many religionsrecognise the benefits of fasting, but only Islam institutes a month of it to secure its benefits for all its adherents. God prescribes in His book that all able-bodied Muslims must fast. This will develop in them a consciousness that will help them towards right conduct and prevent them from wrongdoing.

To obtain this result, a Muslim must stick to both the formal and informal aspects of the fast. The formal aspects include abstaining from food, drink, and sexual intercourse.

The Informal aspects of the fast are just as important. the fasting person must abstain from lying, cheating, argumentation, fighting, foul language and every sort of evil. In this month one has to cultivate a lasting awareness of God, and a keen sense to observe His commandments throughout the year. The prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, said that if someone does not give up falsehood in speech and actions, God has no need for such a one to give up his food and drink.

The Meaning of Ramadan

Ramadan is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. There are as many meanings of Ramadan as there are Muslims.

The third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam (submission in English), fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one's spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur'an, giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds.

As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God's bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.

Who Fasts in Ramadan?

Fasting in Ramadan is obligatory on those who can do it. . Sick people and some travelers in certain conditions are exempted from the fast but must make it up as they are able.

The Sighting of the Moon

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. While many Muslim sects insist on the physical sighting of the moon, there is no such requirement in the Quran, the Muslims's holy book. The much-anticipated start of the month can now be based on the  very accurate astronomical calculations. . The end of the month is marked by the celebration of 'Eid-ul-Fitr,  a traditional practice not a religious one.

From Dawn to Sunset

The daily period of fasting starts at the breaking of dawn and ends at the setting of the sun. In between -- that is, during the daylight hours -- Muslims  (Submitters) totally abstain from food, drink, smoking, and sex. The usual practice is to have a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before dawn and a post-fast meal (iftar) after sunset.

The Islamic lunar calendar, being 11 to 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, migrates throughout the seasons. Thus, if  Ramadan begins on January 20 one year, next year it will begin on January 9. In this way, the length of the day, and thus the fasting period, varies in length from place to place over the years. Every Muslim, no matter where he or she lives, will see an average Ramadan day of the approximately 13.5 hours.

Devotion to God

The last ten days of Ramadan are a time of special spiritual power as everyone tries to come closer to God through devotions and good deeds. The night on which the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet, known as the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr), is generally taken to be the 27th night of the month. The Qur'an states that this night is better than a thousand months. Therefore many Muslims (Submitters)  spend the entire night in prayer.

During the month, Muslims (Submitters) try to read as much of the Qur'an as they can. Some spend part of their day listening to the recitation of the Qur'an in a mosque. meet for Quranic studies or for congregation prayers. Some spend the last ten days of Ramadan  in a mosque devoting the whole ten days for worshipping God.

Food in Ramadan

Since Ramadan is a special time, Muslims (Submitters) in many parts of the world prepare certain favorite foods during this month. Since Ramadan emphasizes community aspects and since everyone eats dinner at the same time, Muslims often invite one another to share in the Ramadan evening meal.

Some Muslims(Submitters) find that they eat less for dinner during Ramadan than at other times due to stomach contraction. However, as a rule, most Muslims experience little fatigue during the day since the body becomes used to the altered routine during the first week of Ramadan.

The Spirit of Ramadan

Muslims use many phrases in various languages to congratulate one another for the completion of the obligation of fasting and the 'Eid-ul-Fitr festival. Here is a sampling of them:

"Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year) - Arabic

"Atyab at-tihani bi-munasabat hulul shahru Ramadan al-Mubarak" (The most precious congratulations on the occasion of the coming of Ramadan) - Arabic

"Elveda, ey Ramazan" (Farewell, O Ramadan) - Turkish

"Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year) - Arabic

"'Ramadan mubarak (A Blessed Ramadan)" - universal

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