Ramadan is the ninth month of the 12-month Islamic lunar calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting (Sawm). This annual observance is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The lunar calendar falls short of the solar calendar by 11 days every year. As a result, Ramadan doesn’t start on the same date each year and instead passes through all the seasons.
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The third “pillar” or religious obligation of Islam (submission to God), fasting redirects the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity.
Ramadan is also a time of profound worship, reading of the Qur’an (Muslim Holy Scripture), giving charity, purifying one’s behavior, and doing good deeds. For Muslims (followers of Islam), Ramadan is not merely another month, but an opportunity to gain by giving up, to prosper by going without and to grow stronger by enduring weakness. Ramadan is celebrated as the month during which Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) received the initial revelations of the Quran from God.
All Muslims who have reached puberty and are in good health are required to fast. The sick and elderly, along with travelers, pregnant women and those who are nursing are exempt, although they are supposed to make up for the missed fast days sometime in the future or help feed the poor.
The common practice during Ramadan is fasting from dawn to sunset. The pre-dawn meal before the fast is called the Suhoor, while the meal at sunset that opens the fast is known as the Iftar. It is a common practice to open the fast with dates, following the custom of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is followed by the sunset prayer, which is followed by dinner. Ramadan emphasizes community aspects and since everyone eats dinner at the same time, Muslims often invite family, friends and community members to share in the Ramadan evening meal.
The end of the month is marked by the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr (Festival of breaking-fast). 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 are samples of few common greetings: