The month of Ramadan Briefy explained
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim Lunar calendar. The Month of Ramadan is also when it is believed the Holy Quran "was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation".It is during this month that Muslims fast. It is called the Fast of Ramadan and lasts the entire month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation .
During the Fast of Ramadan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. The fast is resumed the next morning.
The good that is acquired through the fast can be destroyed by - the telling of a lie,slander,denouncing someone behind his back, a false oath,greed or covetousness.These are considered offensive at all times, but are most offensive during the Fast of Ramadan. Thus one of the objectives of this month for a Muslim is to purify himself / herself from ill characteristics that are within one. A spiritual cleansing through a physical action.
During Ramadan, it is common for Muslims to go to the Masjid (Mosque) and spend several hours praying and studying the Quran. In addition to the five daily prayers, during Ramadan Muslims recite a special prayer called the Taraweeh prayer (Night Prayer). The length of this prayer is usually 2-3 times as long as the daily prayers. Some Muslims spend the entire night in prayer.
In the last ten nights of this month, Muslims search for a special night called Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power). It is believed that on this night Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Quran. And according to the Quran, this is when God determines the course of the world for the following year. When the fast ends (the first day of the month of Shawwal) it is celebrated as a "holiday" called Id-al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Friends and family gather to pray in congregation. Meals are prepared and family and friends have a joyous day.
The Importance of Ramadan to Muslims
Ramadan is important for Muslims is because it is believed to be the month in which the first verses of the Holy Qur’an (the divine scripture) were revealed by Allah (God) to Prophet Muhammad (570-632 C.E.). From time to time, Muhammad used to go out from Makkah, where he was born and where he worked as a caravan trader, to reflect and meditate in solitude. Like Abraham before him, he had never accepted his people’s worship of many gods, and felt a need to withdraw to a quiet place to reflect on the One God. One night, while contemplating in a cave near Makkah, he heard a voice call out, telling him to "Read!" Muhammad protested that he was unable to read. The voice insisted again, and then a third time, and Muhammad found himself reciting the first verses of the Qur’an:
"Read, in the name of thy Lord, Who created—Created man, out of a clot (embryo).Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,He Who taught the use of the pen—Taught man that which he knew not.Nay, but man doth transgress all bounds,In that he looketh upon himself as self-sufficient.Verily, to thy Lord is the return (of all)." (ch.96: 1-8)
The voice was that of the angel Gabriel, and he confirmed that Muhammad was selected for an important and challenging mission—he was to call people to monotheism and righteousness.
Muslims consider the Qur’an to be God’s speech recorded in the Arabic language, and transmitted to humanity through Muhammad, who is considered the last of the prophets. This tradition of God-chosen prophets or messengers is believed to include such figures as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. Muslims believe that over a period of twenty-three years, various verses and chapters of the Qur’an were revealed to Muhammad through Gabriel. The Qur’an is comprised of 114 chapters of varying length, with titles such as "Abraham," "The Pilgrimage," "Mary," and "Repentance."
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day. This means not consuming food and drink, including water, during the daylight hours. For married adults, it also includes refraining from marital relations during the hours of fasting (i.e. the daylight hours). In the Arabic language, fasting is known as sawm. Muslims arise early in the morning during Ramadan to have a pre-dawn breakfast meal, known as suhoor. At the end of the day, the fast is completed by taking the iftar meal, which usually includes dates, fresh fruits, appetizers, beverages and dinner. Later in the evening, Muslims attend special nightly prayers(called tarawih) at their local mosque. Each night during Ramadan, approximately 1/30th of the Qur’an is recited in the tarawih prayers, so that the entire scripture is recited in the course of the 29 or 30 days of the month.
Why Muslims Fast
For Muslims, fasting has a number of benefits:
1. It helps one to feel compassion for those who are less fortunate and underprivileged, since each day Muslims feel greater appreciation for what they have as a result of feeling hunger and thirst.
2. It allows one to build a sense of self-control and will-power, which can be beneficial throughout life in dealing with temptations and peer-pressure. Through fasting, Muslims learn to control their natural urges such as hunger and thirst, and thus are able to better resist temptations for things which are not necessary, such as drugs or other unhealthy or harmful substances and behaviors.
3. It offers a time for Muslims to "purify" their bodies as well as their souls, by developing a greater sense of humility, spirituality and community. Ramadan is a very spiritual time for Muslims, and often they invite each other to one another’s homes to break the fast and pray together. A greater sense of generosity and forgiveness is also characteristic of this time.
As with other duties in Islam, fasting becomes obligatory (i.e. one becomes accountable) after the age of puberty.
After the end of Ramadan, a very festive and joyous holiday is celebrated by Muslims, known as Eid al-Fitr [eed ul fit-ur], the Festival of Breaking the Fast. On the day of the Eid, Muslims attend special congregational prayers in the morning, wearing their nicest clothes and perfumes. After the completion of prayers and a special sermon, Muslims rise to greet and hug one another, saying "Eid Mubarak," which means "Holiday Blessings." Later on, Muslim families visit each other’s homes, and have special meals together. Children are often rewarded with gifts, money, and sweets.