The holiday of Ramadan is upon us once again. Here are five fast facts to help you understand the importance of this holy month for the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world…
1. Ninth month, new moon
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar one. Therefore, the corresponding start/end dates of the holiday month on the Gregorian calendar will change slightly every year, depending on the sighting of the new moon. The dependence on the new moon also means that the holiday dates can even vary slightly from country to country. But, they typically will not vary by more than one day.
2. Semantic roots
Ramadan has its semantic roots in the Arabic word ramad, which is related to the concepts of scorching, burning and heat.For this reason, it is believed that Ramadan originally fell during the summer months. Other important words to know during the holiday period are Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem. These are ways to wish people a blessed or generous Ramadan.
3. Revelation and reflection
The Quran is said to have been revealed to the Prophet Mohammed during Ramadan. So, the holiday is an important time during which Muslims reflect, pray, and feel closer to Allah. For example, they often spend more time at the mosque than during other times of the year.
Fasting (from food, but also drinks, gum, sex, arguments, gossip, and the like) from sunrise to sunset is serious business. This act of restraint allows greater focus on prayer and closeness to Allah. A pre-dawn meal must carry you through the day until the break fast meal each evening, known as the Iftar. But, exceptions are made for women who are pregnant, those who are traveling, young children, or older adults. Muslims may still attend work or school during Ramadan, although hours are often reduced. Fasting is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam alongside faith, prayer, charity, and pilgrimage to Mecca. As with the dates of the holiday, the number of fasting hours will depend on geographic location and local sunrise and sunset times.
5. The final celebration
Eid-al-Fitr is the first day of the month following Ramadan, also known as Shawwal. This “Festival of Fast Breaking”, which also depends on the sighting of the new moon, is when Muslims have their first daytime meal in nearly a month. There are feasts, exchanges of gifts, and charity offerings as part of this time of spiritual renewal. It lasts up to three days depending on the country.