How to Observe Ramadan

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Observe Ramadan
Observe Ramadan

How to Observe Ramadan. Each year, Muslims throughout the world observe the holy month of Ramadan, which falls during the ninth lunar cycle of the Islamic calendar. Since Ramadan is marked by the emergence of the new moon during this period, Muslims in varying parts of the world may begin to observe the holiday at slightly different times. For instance, those who observe Ramadan in the Middle East usually begin a day before those in North America. However, all will observe the practice of siyyam or sawm, a period of fasting that promotes dedication to prayer and to God.

Learn How to Observe Ramadan

Recognize that Ramadan commemorates the month in which the Qur'an, the word of God (or Allah), was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The Qur'an, which literally translates to "the recitation" in Arabic, is believed to be divine communication directly from God that was delivered to Muhammad over a period of 23 years.

Discover that Ramadan embraces the fourth of the five pillars or religious duties of the Muslim faith. As such, it is characterized by a period of fasting as a means toward self-purification of mind, body and spirit.

Understand that fasting during Ramadan means more than abstaining from food and drink. During Ramadan, one must also avoid sexual activity, arguing, gossip, expressions of anger and envy. The purpose of these restrictions is to encourage self-discipline and devotion to prayer, elevating attunement with the divine.

Expect the practice of fasting from food and drink (even water) during Ramadan to be observed every day of the month from dawn until sundown. The fast may be broken when it is time to perform Maghrib, the fourth daily prayer at dusk.

Know that Muslims strive to read the Qur'an in its entirety during the month of Ramadan. Sunni Muslims hold to nightly recitations of "Tarawih" (extra prayers) with sections of the Qur'an being read each night for 30 days. The Shiite Muslims practice a nightly prayer, known as "Salat al-Layl," and encourage independent study of the Qur'an.

Be aware that the rising of the next new moon ushers in Eid ul-Fitr, the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," and signals the end of Ramadan.

Tips & Warnings

  • Reschedule your fast. Those who are traveling, ill, elderly and women who are pregnant or nursing during Ramadan are allowed to break the fast and observe an equal number of days of devotion at another time.
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