What Is Ramadan? All You Need to Know!


Baraa Al-Jasim


What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the year in the Islamic lunar calendar. During this time, Muslims worldwide fast every day from sunrise to sunset. Meaning, Muslims must abstain from eating food, drinking, and smoking. Very young children, women who are pregnant or menstruating, travelers, and people who are ill are exempt from this. 


Origin of Ramadan

It is the most sacred month of the year because it commemorates the month that is believed that the Quran (Islamic holy book) was revealed to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) by the angel Gabriel on a night called “The Night of Power” (Laylat al-Qadr). The Quran is taken to be the direct words of Allah (SWT). The Islamic Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is believed to have said, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained.”


Why do Muslims fast?

Muslims are required to abide by the 5 pillars that are the core beliefs and practices of Islam.

  • Confession of Faith (shahada)
  • Prayer (salat)
  • Alms-giving (zakat), which means charity
  • Fasting (sawm)
  • Pilgrimage (hajj)

There are also physical and spiritual reasons too. Fasting teaches restraint; one’s ability to control their worldly desires and utilize their time to pray to Allah (SWT). It is also done to heightens one’s consciousness and devotion to their creator and is a time of self-improvement; to cleanse oneself of bad habits. 


How do Muslims break their fasts?

Muslims traditionally break their fasts like the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) did;  water and dates at sunset. I can tell you from experience, that the first sip of water is the most anticipated moment of the day when you are just watching the clock tick by for hours on an empty stomach. Yogurt-based drinks have become more popular nowadays to break fast with. After the 4th  prayer of the day is carried out then a large (and I truly mean large. We are hungry, so we always overestimate the amount we can eat) feast known as “iftar” is shared with family and friends. 

© Riau Images / Barcroft Images

What are some common traditions?

Ramadan is also a month rooted in culture and depicts the closeness people have with each other, including strangers. Everyone around the globe welcomes the start of Ramadan with greetings of “Ramadan Mubarak.” Tents outside of mosques, restaurants, and hotels are usually put up to provide meals that are either free or paid for. Many organizations also create free iftar meals to hand out for people in need. After iftar, the night is spent on tea, coffee, sweets, and conversations. There is also a proliferation of television shows during this time. Muslims then come together at the mosque for a nightly prayer called “Taraweeh.” There are many different Ramadan traditions around the world. Lebanese people fire cannons to signal the time for iftar, drummers announce suhoor (meal before sunrise) in Turkey, Egyptians light lanterns, and much more!







When does Ramadan end? 

This year, Ramadan ends on Saturday, May 23, 2020. Eid-al-Fitr then begins when the new moon appears and is meant to commemorate the end of Ramadan. It is a time of celebration and enjoying the company of family (due to quarantine, it will be spent at home). The celebration lasts for 3 days. On eid morning, Muslims cleanse their bodies in a ritual called “ghusl” and put on new clothes before leaving to perform morning prayers. It is usual for gifts to be given to children during this time.