Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days according to the visual sightings of the crescent moon according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in hadiths.It is the Muslim month of fasting, in which Muslims refrain from dawn until sunset from eating, drinking, and sexual relations.
At the end of Ramadan and before the breaking of the fast, Muslims say takbeer. The takbeer is a statement indicating there is nothing in the world that is bigger or greater than Allah. Takbeer is always said when a Muslim completes an important task, as in the completion of the fast of Ramadan.
One of the most important aspects of the Ramadan fast is called niyyah. Niyyah literally means "intention." Muslims must not simply or accidentally abstain from food; they must achieve the requirement of niyyah. To achieve this requirement, a Muslim must "intend in [his] heart that [the fast] is meant to be a worship for Allah alone." So, if someone fasts for political or dietary reasons, he would not achieve niyyah. In fact, according to scripture, "Whoever does not make niyyah before dawn, would not have fasted." The determination to fast is equal in importance to the fast itself.
For Muslims, Ramadan is a month of blessing that includes prayer, fasting and charity. The meaning of Ramadan goes back many centuries, to about 610 A.D. It was at this time, during the ninth month of the lunar calendar, that Muslims believe God, or Allah, revealed the first verses of the Qu'ran, the holy book of Islam.
Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world rise before dawn to eat Sahur or Sehri or Sahari (meaning "something we eat at Sahar") and perform the fajr (or Sobh) prayer. The fast begins before the call to prayer starts and ends with the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib. ... Muslims may continue to eat and drink after the sun has set until the next morning's fajr call to prayer.
The Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan. During Eid, food and gifts are donated to the poor (Zakat al-Fitr). Communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting with relatives and friends. Common greetings during this holiday are the Arabic greeting ‘Id mubarak ("Blessed Eid") or ‘Id sa‘id ("Happy Eid"). In addition, many countries have their own greetings based on local language and traditions.
During Ramadan, the fast begins at sunrise, when the "white thread becomes distinct from the black thread," (Al-Baqarah 2:187), and ends at sunset. Most Muslims rise before dawn for an early meal, known as Suhoor. Whilst observing the fast Muslims are forbidden to eat, drink, smoke or take part in sexual intercourse. According to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) broke his fast at the end of each day with a date, a custom that is widely practised amongst many Muslims; the meal prepared for ending the fast is known as Iftar and is considered to be a time for families to gather together and break bread.
The word Ramadan originates from the Arabic root ‘ar-ramad' or ‘ramida', which means scorching heat or scarcity of rations. Ramadan is the holy month of fasting as ordained by the Quran for all Muslims who have reached puberty and who are able to keep it, and it is the fourth pillar of Islam.
The month of Ramadan is a time in which we hold our bodily compulsions and instincts under strict control, together with our thoughts and our mental states, our moods and desires. We submit ourselves (our nafs) and our accustomed patterns of life to a higher template, one that fosters a regimen of self-restraint within the body and mind and correspondingly seeks an intensification of the life of the spirit. The body is ordered to fast from what it needs, from what is normally allowed to it, from what it desires, from what it craves, from what it may seek on a whim, and from what it habitually seeks - from all that leads to an intensification of the activities of the nafs.
Although the fasting of Ramadan was practiced in pre-Islamic times by the pagans of Jahiliyah, it was introduced to Arabia by the Harranians. Harran was a city on the border between Syria and Iraq, very close to Asia Minor which, today, is Turkey. Their main deity was the moon, and in the worship of the moon, they conducted a major fast which lasted thirty days. It began the eighth of March and usually finished the eighth of April. Arabic historians, such as Ibn Hazm, identify this fast with Ramadan.
Anyone sincerely unable to perform the fast can always choose to make them up later in the year or feed the poor instead (Qur’an 2:184-185). It’s not limited to just the old or the sick, mind you: this year, many muslim athletes at the Olympic Games in London are choosing to delay their fasts (and fasting is known to affect athletic performance).
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 first verses of the Qur'an were 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 spend the entire night in prayer.
The third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam, 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.