Fasting for Ramadan

Festival Essentials

Where: A holy time for all followers of the Islam faith, especially in the Middle East
9th month of Muslim Calendar
What Happens: 
Like the Christian lent, fasting and piety are practised for a month, broken by the celebratory Id al Fitr festival

The month of Ramadan is one of the five ‘pillars’ or principals of Islam. Muslims throughout the world celebrate this holy time by abstaining from food during the hours of daylight. The fast lasts for 30 days, and while exceptions are made for the sick, elderly, pregnant and children, Ramadan is a commandment which all healthy adult Muslims are expected to observe.

Dates for 2003

Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. This year it begins on Oct 27th and ends on Nov 21st. The exact dates are subject to a lunar calendar and the calendar is around 1 month shorter each year.

What happens at Ramadan?

During the 30 days of Ramadan, between sunrise and sunset, Muslims are forbidden from eating, drinking, smoking and engaging in sexual relations. This is sacred time for worship and concentration on the Islamic faith, rather than everyday trivialities.

Muslims visit the Mosque every day during Ramadan, to pray together and study the Quran (Islamic Holy Book). As well as the five daily prayers that are said throughout the year, a special prayer called the Taraweeh or ‘Night Prayer’ is said during Ramadan. When the sun goes down at the end of the day the fast is broken with a meal called the iftar. After dinner, its customary to go out visiting friends and family who live nearby.

During Ramadan, it’s particularly abhorrent for Muslims to tell lies, slander others, denounce someone behind their back, bear false witness or covet someone else’ possessions. Though these things are considered offensive at all other times of the year, they are thought to undo all the good gained by fasting.

On the night of the 27th day of Ramadam, Muslims celebrate Laylat-al-Qadr or ‘Night of Power’. It is said that the Quran was revealed to Mohammed on this night , and God determines the world’s course for the coming year.

Ramadan ends with a three day festival called Id-al-Fitr. It’s a time for friends and family to gather together in prayer, exchange gifts and indulge in large meals.

What’s the history of Ramadan?

Ramadan is the name of the 9th month of the Muslim calendar. Muslims believe that this was when the Quran was revealed to the prophet Mohammad by Heaven. The Quran itself requires that this month should be a holy time of fasting and reflection: One may eat and drink at any time during the night “until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night”.

The word ramadan comes from the Arabic root word ramida, which means ‘heat’ or ‘dryness’. Ramadan is so called because a parched feeling is experienced in the stomach during fasting. Some also believe that Ramadan is a time when God burns the bad deeds from the souls of the faithful.

Travellers Tip

If you are planning to visit a muslim country during Ramadan, be sure to stock up on food from stores as many restaurants and cafes will be closed until nightfall. As this is a holy time, public services and opening hours in many places may be drastically cut down.

More information:

Watch: The Story of… Ramadan

Further resources:

Be Convinced
In depth information about Islam

Online British Islamic community relating to the month of Ramadan

Ramadam greeting e-cards
Send a colourful animated and musical e-card to family and friends to celebrate the festival courtesy of 123 Greetings

Ramadan, Rosalind Kerven; Evans Brothers 1996