This article is about religious observances during the month of Ramadan. For the actual calendar month, see Ramadan (calendar month).
A crescent moon can be seen over palm trees at sunset in Manama, Bahrain, marking the beginning of the Muslim month of Ramadan
|Ends||29, or 30 Ramadan|
|Date||Variable (follows the Islamiclunar calendar)|
|2010 date||11/12 August – 09/10 September|
|2011 date||1–29 August|
|2012 date||20 July-18 August|
|Observances||Sawm (fasting), zakat(almsgiving), Tarawihprayer, reading the Qur'an|
|Related to||Eid ul-Fitr, Laylat al-Qadr|
Ramadan (Arabic: رمضانRamaḍān, Arabic pronunciation: [rɑmɑˈdˤɑːn]) (also Ramadhan, Ramadaan, Ramazan) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 to 30 days. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours and is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God. Muslims fast for the sake of God (Arabic: الله, trans: Allah) and to offer more prayer than usual. Compared to the solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary, moving backwards by about eleven days each year depending on the moon; thus, a person will have fasted every day of the calendar year in 34 years' time. Muslims believe Ramadan to be an auspicious month for the revelations of God to humankind, being the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to theIslamic prophet, Muhammad.
The word Ramadan is derived from an Arabic root rmḍ, as in words like "ramiḍa" or "ar-ramaḍ" denoting intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of rations. Ramadan, as a name for the month, is of Islamic origin. Prior to Islam and the exclusion of intercalary days from the Islamic calendar, the name of the month was Natiq and the month fell in the warm season. The word was thus chosen as it well represented the original climate of the month and the physiological conditions precipitated from fasting. In the Qur'an, God proclaims that "fasting has been written down (as obligatory) upon you, as it was upon those before you". According to a hadith, it might refer to the Jewish practice of fasting on Yom Kippur.
Hilāl (the crescent) is typically a day (or more) after the astronomical new moon. Since the new moon indicates the beginning of the new month, Muslims can usually safely estimate the beginning of Ramadan.
There are many disagreements each year however, on when Ramadan starts. This stems from the tradition to sight the moon with the naked eye and as such there are differences for countries on opposite sides of the globe. More recently however, some Muslims are leaning towards using astronomical calculations to avoid this confusion.
For the year of 1432 Hijri, the first day of Ramadan was determined to be August 1, 2011.
The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur'an was sent down - right Guidance to mankind, and clear signs of Guidance and Distinction of truth from falsehood. Those among you who witness it, let him fast therein. Whoever is sick or on a journey, then a number of other days. God desires ease for you, and desires not hardship. Thus may you fulfil the number of days assigned, magnify God for having guided you, and perhaps you will be thankful.
Ramadan is a time of reflecting, believing and worshiping God. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual intercourseamong spouse is allowed after one has ended the fast. During fasting intercourse is prohibited as well as eating and drinking, one is also encouraged to resist all temptations while you are fasting. Purity of both thoughts and actions is important. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also teaches Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control,sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity (Zakat).
Muslims should start observing the fasting ritual upon reaching the age of puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. The elderly, the chronically ill, and the mentally ill are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed the poor in place of their missed fasting. Also exempt are pregnant women if they believe it would be harmful to them or the unborn baby, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns. A difference of opinion exists among Islamic scholars as to whether this last group must make up the days they miss at a later date, or feed poor people as a recompense for days missed. While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavour to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life. Lastly, those traveling (musaafir) are exempt, but must make up the days they miss. More specifically, Twelver Shī‘ah define those who travel more than 14 mi (23 km) in a day as exempt.
In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur'an. Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Qur'an by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, which are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (Juz', which is 1/30 of the Qur'an) is recited. Therefore the entire Qur'an would be completed at the end of the month.
Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment; this is to establish a link between themselves and God through prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others. Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it; this can involve buying new clothes, shoes and other items of need. There is also a social aspect involving the preparation of special foods and inviting people for Iftar.
Muslims all around the world will abstain from food and drink, through fasting, from dawn to sunset. At sunset, the family will gather the fast-breaking meal known as Iftar. The meal starts with the eating of a date — just as ProphetMuhammad used to do. Then it's time for the Maghrib prayer, which is the fourth of the five daily prayers, after which the main meal is served. 
Over time, Iftar has grown into banquet festivals. This is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities, but may also occupy larger spaces at mosques or banquet halls, where a hundred or more may gather at a time.
Most markets close down during evening prayers and the Iftar meal, but then re-open and stay open for a good part of the night. Muslims can be seen shopping, eating, spending time with their friends and family during the evening hours. In many Muslim countries, this can last late into the evening, to early morning. However, if they try to attend to business as usual, it can become a time of personal trials, fasting without coffee or water.
Charity is very important in Islam, and even more so during Ramadhan. According to tradition, Ramadhan is a particularly blessed time to give in charity, as the reward is 700 times greater than any other time of the year. For that reason, Muslims will spend more in charity (sadaqa), and many will pay their zakat during Ramadhan, to receive the blessings (reward). In many Muslim countries, it is not uncommon to see people giving food to the poor and the homeless, and to even see large public areas for the poor to come and break their fast. It is said that if a person helps a fasting person to break their fast, then they receive a reward for that fast, without diminishing the reward that the fasting person got for their fast.
Main article: Laylat al-Qadr
Sometimes referred to as "the night of decree or measures", Laylat al-Qadr is considered the most holy night of the year. Muslims believe that Laylat al-Qadr is the night in which the Qur'an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Also, it is believed to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during the last 10 days of Ramadan, either the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th. Shiites also commemorate the attack on Imam `Ali ibn Abi Talib and his subsequent martyrdom every year on the 19th, 21st and 23rd of Ramadan.
Main article: Eid ul-Fitr
The holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر) marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted. The Eid falls after 29 or 30 days of fasting, per the lunar sighting. Eid ul-Fitr means the back to the fitrah ; usually a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor (Zakat al-fitr); everyone puts on their best, usually new, clothes; and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends. The prayer is two Raka'ah only, and it is sunnah muakkad  as opposed to the compulsory (Fard) five daily prayers. Muslims are expected to do this as an act of worship, and to thank God.
Ramadan is met with various decorations throughout the streets. In Egypt, lanterns are known to be a symbol of Ramadan. They are hung across the cities of Egypt, part of an 800 year old tradition, the origin of which is said to lie in the Fatimid era where the Caliph Al-Muizz Lideenillah was greeted by people holding lanterns to celebrate his ruling. From that time lanterns were used to light mosques and houses throughout the city.
In other Muslim countries, lights are strung up in public squares, and across city streets, to add to the festivities of the month. In the West, many Muslim households have taken to decorating the inside of their homes to make Ramadhan a more special time for their children.
In Egypt, national statistics have pointed to substantial increase in consumption of food, electricity, and medications related to digestive disorders during the month of Ramadan as compared with the monthly average in the rest of the year.
- ^ An Idiot's Guide to Ramadan; BBC, 03 October 2005
- ^ Ramadan FAQ
- ^ 
- ^ Sunan al-Tirmidhi I.145.
- ^ Goyṭayn, Šelomo D. (1966). Studies in Islamic history and institutions. Leiden, NL: E. J. Brill. pp. 95–96. ISBN 9004030069.
- ^ Hilal Sighting & Islamic Dates: Issues and Solution Insha'Allaah. Hilal Sighting Committee of North America (website). Retrieved 19 August 2009.
- ^ Muslims disagree on start of Ramadan
- ^ Qur'an 2:185
- ^ Why Ramadan brings us together; BBC, 01 September 2008
- ^ a b Help for the Heavy at Ramadan,Washington Post, 27 September 2008
- ^ See, for example, Should pregnant women fast during Ramadan[dead link], where both points of view are indicated by different scholars; see also The Old, The Pregnant, And The Breast Feeding Not Fasting (archived from the original on 2008-06-08), where different views on this subject are mentioned.
- ^ Qur'an 2:184
- ^ Muslims fast and feast as Ramadan begins 8-11-2010.
- ^ Ramadan: Muslims feast and fast during holy month access 8-11-2011.
- ^ Robinson, Neal (1999). Islam: A Concise Introduction. Washington: Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0878402241.
- ^ Islam.com - Types of Prayers
- ^ Abdel-Moneim Said (September 3, 2009), "Wasting Ramadan", Al-Ahram Weekly.
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