Ramadan or Ramadhan (Arabic: رمضان ) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Ramadan is an Islamic religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when the Qur’an was revealed. The name “Ramadan” is taken from the name of this month; the word itself derived from an Arabic word for intense heat, scorched ground, and shortness of rations. It is considered the most venerated and blessed month of the Islamic year. Prayers, sawm (fasting), charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month.
The word Ramadan is derived from the word ramd “to burn”. Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. The entire month is spent fasting from dawn to dusk. The name came from the time before the Islamic calendar, when the month of Ramadan fell in the summer. Fasting during this month is often thought to figuratively burn away all sins. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was sent down to the earth during this month. Furthermore, Muhammad told his followers that the gates of Heaven would be open all the month and the gates of Hell would be closed. The first day of the next month is spent in celebrations and is observed as the ‘Festival of Breaking Fast’ or `Eid ul-Fitr.
The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, Ramadan migrates throughout the seasons. The actual and estimated start and end dates for Ramadan in 2007 are:
1428 AH – First day: September 13, 2007; last day: October 12, 2007
Most Muslims insist on the local physical sighting of the moon to mark the beginning of Ramadan, but some insist on using the calculated time of the new moon or the Saudi Arabian declaration to determine the start of the month. Since the new moon is not in the same state at the same time globally, the beginning and ending dates of Ramadan depend on what lunar sightings are received in each respective location. As a result, Ramadan dates vary in different countries, but usually only by a day or two.
Ramadan is divided into three ten-day parts, or ashra (Arabic for ten). They are named Rahmat (mercy of God), Maghfirat (forgiveness of God), and Najat (salvation), respectively. Laylat al-Qadr, which falls during the last third, commemorates the revelation of the first verses of the Qur’an and is considered the most holy night of the year.
The most prominent event of this month is the fasting (sawm) practiced by most observant Muslims. Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world get up before dawn to eat and perform their fajr prayer. They break their fast when the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib (sunset), is due and can eat and drink until dawn the next day.
During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam as well as refraining from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backbiting, and gossip. They are encouraged to read the Qur’an. Obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided; sexual intercourse during fasting hours is also forbidden. Purity of both thought and action is important.
The Islamic 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. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fast, a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor (‘Zakat al-Fitr’), everyone put on their best, preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends. The prayer is two rakaahs only, and it is an optional prayer as opposed to the compulsory 5 daily prayers. During the month following Ramadan, called Shawaal, Muslims are encouraged to fast for a further six days.