Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The Muslim calendar is a lunar calendar, and thus the dates of Ramadan shift each year on European calendars.
The Fast of Ramadan lasts the whole month and it is also a time of other religious observances for Muslims, those who follow the Islamic faith. It is a month when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend more time in contemplation and less time on the concerns of everyday life. It is a time for inner reflection and self-control.
This year leaders are also calling for Ramadan to be a time to increase awareness of the Muslim community. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, with its offices in Anaheim, urge that Muslims take this time to do things like make informative displays in places like public libraries, donate books and videos to libraries, and make presentations at local schools. Most of all, local Muslims are encouraged to be involved in the wider community.
“One thing that we have all learned from the tragedy of Sept. 11 is the need to be directly involved in the community. Whether it’s organizing an interfaith event, inviting your neighbors to an open house, meeting with local leaders, or even volunteering at a soup kitchen, do whatever you can to help show that Muslims care,” said Sakeena Mirza, education director for the American-Islamic Relations Council.
Ramadan is significant in the Islamic faith because it is the month in which the Quran, Islam’s holy book, was traditionally revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
The most well-known part of Ramadan is the fast. Muslims abstain from all food and drink during daylight hours.
In the evening the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called “iftar.” Following the meal, it is customary for families to visit with each other and with friends on many evenings.
Each morning during Ramadan Muslim families rise and have breakfast before dawn. Morning prayers follow.
Fasting allows people to build self-control and to fortify themselves against the temptations of the world. It is similar to the fasting described in the Bible, according to Mir Javid Jalali of the Unified Mosque of Irvine.
Each area of the world has its own favorite Ramadan recipes for pre- and post-daylight repasts. Egypt has special pastries and Pakistan has special drinks. Other examples include African-American bean pies, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
There are other things that are especially forbidden during Ramadan, and Irvine resident Najma Quader said they are harder than the fasting. Things that can destroy the good accomplished by fasting include telling a lie, slander, a false oath, greed and covetousness. These are considered offensive at any time, but are especially offensive during the Fast of Ramadan.
Islam calls for five daily prayers the rest of the year, but during Ramadan the faithful also recite a special prayer called the Taraweh prayer. It is two or three times longer than the usual daily prayers.
In some countries, like Pakistan, restaurants usually close during the days of Ramadan and open in the evenings with iftar. Working hours are sometimes cut short and special programs run on TV.
During the month, many Muslims try to read as much of the Quran as they can, preferably the whole book at least once.
The last 10 days of Ramadan are considered a time of spiritual power as worshipers try to come closer to God through devotions and good deeds. The night on which the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad, known as the Night of Power (“Laylat al-Qadr”), is traditionally the 27th night of the month.
According to the teachings of the Quran, this is when God determines the course of the world for the following year. Some Muslims spend the entire night in prayer. In many places, crowds of thousands attend the final nights of the reading of the complete text of the Quran.
When the fast ends there is a three-day celebration called the Feast of the Fast Breaking (Eid-al-Fitr). People wear new clothes, special foods and sweets are prepared, gifts and money are given to children. Friends and family gather to pray together and for large meals. In some cities fairs are held.
Though the celebration lasts three days, the main activities occur on the first day, which is the first day of Shawwal, the new month on the Muslim calendar. During Eid-al-Fitr Muslims traditionally give charitable gifts to the poor. The purpose of the gift is to purify oneself for any transgressions during Ramadan.
A traditional greeting used around the time of Eid-al-Fitr is “Eid mubarak,” which means “May your holiday be blessed.” The greeting “Ramadan mubarak” is also used during the month of Ramadan.