The history behind Ramadan.
Ramadan makes up "The Five Pillars" of Islam. The 5 pillars are:
- Observing Sawm (complete fasting) during the Holy month of Ramadan
- Payment of Zakat (charity) during Ramadan
- Performing the Hajj (pilgrimage) in Mecca at least once in a lifetime
- Reciting the Shahadah (profession of faith)
- Performing Salah (ritual prayers, five times a day)
The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God. It is widely regarded as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language. Quranic chapters are called suras and verses are called ayahs.
Muslims believe that the Quran was verbally revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad, the Muslims' spiritual leader (or who the Muslims believe is a messenger of God). The Qur'an was verbally revealed from God to the Prophet during the month of Ramadan, on the night known as Lailut ul-Qadr ('The Night of Power').
As mentioned before, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar follows the Lunar Calendar, which means that the months follows the cycles of the moon. The Islamic calendar is also 355 days long unlike the Western solar calendar which is 365 long. So, unlike a holiday like Christmas (which falls on the same date every year) Ramadan begins on a different date each year.
Who observes Ramadan?
Ramadan is one of the jolliest Month for Muslims. It is a season of fasting and learning to give, that ends with the festivities of 'Eid ul Fitr' (or Eid al-Fitr) as the reward. Eid involves feasts with friends, fancy clothes and festivities. Everyone loves the festivities of Eid and the journey through Ramadan to get to Eid.
Anyone, twelve years and older can observe a fast from dawn to dusk. No food is eaten during the fast and they do not even drink any water. In addition, no smoking, gossiping or saying anything malicious against another person is allowed.
Fasting is intended to help teach Muslims self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity. It reminds them of the suffering of the poor, who rarely get to eat well. It is common to have one meal (known as the suhoor), just before sunrise and another (known as the iftar), directly after sunset.
Although not required, some observers even manage to stop swallowing their own saliva during the fasting hours of Ramada! Can you imagine the dedication that would take?
Ramadan is the month of good deeds and charitable activities. In addition many Muslims attempt to read the entire Qur'an at least once during the Ramadan period. There are also special services in mosques during which the Qur'an is read.
Because Ramadan is a time to spend with friends and family, the fast is typically broken by families coming together to share in an evening meal.
Can younger children fast?
Yes they can, and in fact many even kids as young as four or five, are encouraged to fast for a few hours a day during Ramadan, to help them begin to appreciate the significance of the Holy month. As they get a little older, most families encourage their children under 12 to fast for half a day, until they reach twelve years old, when many kids start fasting for the complete dawn to dusk period. Interestingly, many who are approaching twelve look forward to being old enough to fast for the full day! They feel like little adults.
End of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr (or Eid al-Fitr)
The end of Ramadan is marked by a big celebration with 'Eid-ul-Fitr', the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.
Wherever a Muslim lives, be it in one of the Middle East countries, in Indonesia (the country with the world's largest Muslim population), or even in London, Paris or Dearborn, Michigan, they start their end of Ramadan celebrations by going to the mosque for special congregational prayers to give thanks to God.
At Eid, people dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children, and enjoy visiting friends. A sense of generosity, charity, gratitude and happiness fill the air during the month of Ramadhan. These celebrations of Eid-ul-Fitr' makes Ramadab abs Eid one if the jolliest festivals.