Written by Mariam Charara.
The holiest month in the Islamic faith—Ramadan—starts in the evening on July 8 and ends in the evening on Aug. 7, 2013, according to the Fiqh Council of North America.The month of Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is recognized and practiced all around the world for 28 to 30 days every year.
It is one of the five pillars of Islam and is known to be month of reflection and complete submission to Allah (God). Here are five things everyone should know about Ramadan.
1. Ramadan is recognized to be the month in which the first verses of the holy Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Layalat Al-Qadir is said to be the anniversary of the actual day when the Quran was presented to Muhammad and in English it is known as “the night of power.” Layalat al-Qadir usually falls within the last 10 days of Ramadan and is commonly marked by gathering at a mosque and reciting the Quran until sunrise. Recitation of the entire Quran is also important to achieve throughout this month.
2. Eating and drinking is prohibited from sunrise to sunset. Fasting in Arabic is called sawm, and in English that means refrain. Fasting is supposed to teach self-discipline, patience and spirituality. However, participating in Ramadan is much more than not eating and drinking. People are encouraged to restrain themselves from any type of haram, or sin, including backbiting (or being catty), gossip, looking at unlawful things and using obscene words.
3. Breaking the fast is called “Iftar." The daily fast is traditionally broken with a bite of a fresh or dry date. This is preferred because the prophet Muhammad broke his fast on these middle-eastern fruits. If dates cannot be found, water is a good second choice.
4. Family bonding time is cherished and looked forward to in the month of Ramadan. Everyone’s busy schedules are put on hold as they get together around the dinner table to share the first and most important meal of the day. Typically, large amounts of food are prepared for iftar that include soup, salad, appetizers, a main course and dessert.
5. Eid Al-Fatur is the day that follows the last day of Ramadan. This holiday celebrates the arrival of a the new moon the day after Ramadan ends. Eid celebrations begin with the recitation of the prayer Salat al-Eid and visits with family and close friends. Homes are decorated festively with lights and banners and gifts of clothes or money are exchanged.
Ramadan Mubarak—Have a blessed Ramadan!