What is Ramadan and why is it so important to the Islamic faith?

Recently updated on May 13th, 2024 at 04:05 pm

Ramadan is the holiest month of the year in Islamic culture. For Muslims, it’s a time for spiritual reflection and growth, to help those in need, and to spend time with loved ones. It’s also a time when Muslims around the world fast during daylight hours for the whole month of Ramadan. Read on to find out more about Ramadan traditions and customs, and why it’s so important to the Islamic faith.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. Muslims observe this sacred month of Ramadan to mark when Allah sent an angel who revealed to the Prophet Muhammad the Quran, the Islamic holy book. Said to have taken place in in 610 AD, this revelation is known as the “night of power” or ‘Laylat Al Qadar’ in Arabic.

crescent moon in the dark night sky

When is Ramadan?

The beginning and end of Ramadan change every year as it’s based on the Islamic lunar calendar and the moon cycles. The start of Ramadan is determined by the sighting of the new crescent moon by religious leaders. Although Muslim’s wait for the new moon’s appearance before announcing the first day of Ramadan, they can estimate the arrival. Ramadan is predicted to begin on 12 April this year (2021) and end on 12 May with the Eid al-Fitr celebration. The month of Ramadan usually lasts between 29 to 30 days, depending on when the new crescent moon is sighted. 

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Muslim woman praying at Ramadan

What is the main purpose of Ramadan?

During Ramadan, Muslims aim to grow spiritually and become closer to Allah and their loved ones. They do this by abstaining from eating and other pleasures like smoking, drinking and sexual intercourse between sunrise and sunset each day. Ramadan is also a time for unity and spiritual reflection and Muslims spend time praying, reciting the Quran and doing good deeds. They perform acts of charity and spend time with loved ones.

the holy quran

Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?

Fasting is important during Ramadan as it allows Muslim to devote themselves to their faith, get closer to Allah, seek forgiveness, and learn patience and compassion. It’s about nourishing your soul, rather than only focusing on your physical body. It’s also one of the Five Pillars of Islam which are the foundation of how Muslims live their lives (the others are faith, prayer, charity and pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca).

Fasting is usually done by all Muslims except those who are sick, pregnant, lactating, menstruating, elderly or travelling. If you miss fasting days you can make up for them throughout the year. 

Can you drink water during Ramadan?

The month of fasting is done between sunrise and sunset. During this time, practicing Muslims are not allowed to drink water. Muslims usually wake up before sunrise and eat a light pre-dawn meal known as suhoor. They drink plenty of water at this time to see them through the day. After the sun fully sets, the fast is typically broken with water and dates, followed by prayers and a meal called iftar.

What is not allowed during Ramadan?

Along with avoiding foods and drinks, there are several other practices that are typically discouraged during the Ramadan fasting hours including smoking and sexual activity. If you are not fasting, you should still avoid doing so in public during the day out of respect for those who are observing Ramadan.

It’s also important to abstain from behaviours like swearing, gossiping, lying, overindulgence, wastefulness and dressing immodestly, as this is a time for practicing self-discipline.

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traditional feast after Ramadan

What happens at the end of Ramadan?

A special three-day festival called Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast) marks the end of Ramadan. It begins when the first sight of the new moon is seen in the sky. It’s a joyous occasion, with Muslims celebrating the end of fasting and giving thanks to Allah.

During the three days, Muslims attend prayers in the morning and visit loved ones and neighbours. Then they enjoy a delicious traditional feast with friends and family. Children are often given presents, and it’s custom to donate to those in need. As a symbol of unity, Ramadan is a time when Muslims from all over the world come together to celebrate their faith.

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What are your favourite Ramadan traditions and customs? Let us know in the comments below!

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