All over the world Muslims are currently celebrating the month of Ramadan. What happens during Ramadan and why is it important?
When is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and usually starts on the 13 September. It is one of the most important months for Muslims as it is believed this is the month that the Qu’ran – that’s the Islamic holy book, was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
As well as being a religious month it is also seen as a month for Muslims to celebrate life.
During this month, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and only eat in the evenings after the sun has set. See the Ramadan timetable for the UK for 2007. Chewing gum is also not allowed.
But Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking. During this month Muslims also consciously abstain from sexual activity, smoking, swearing and talking badly about others.
Spiritually, it’s also a time for Muslims to re-evaluate their lives using the Islamic faith as a guideline.
Muslims are encouraged to read and study the Qu’ran. Also, just like the rest of the year, Muslims are encouraged to go to the Mosque and pray five times a day. There is also a special night prayer called the ‘Taraweeh’ prayer, which is longer than the other prayers, and is only used during Ramadan.
Are there any exceptions?
Once a young person has reached puberty they are required to fast.
Children are exceptions as are men and women who are too old to fast, people who are ill, pregnant women in the later months of pregnancy, women who are menstruating and people who are travelling.
Those with diabetes can often find it a tricky decision whether to fast or not during Ramadan. If you or a relative are Muslim and you’re worried about diabetes, speak to your GP before fasting. There is also an NHS leaflet that can help.
If a Muslim misses the fast they can do it later on in the year, or make a donation to the poor instead. Although not every Muslim will fast, most do take part in the spirit of the month which usually means loads of socialising, giving to charity and celebration.
Some key dates
Ten days into the fast, Muslims have a special celebration as it is believed that it was on this day that the Prophet Muhammad first received revelations from the Qu’ran.
Ramadan lasts for 29 or 30 days depending on the moon, and ends on around the 12 October. On this night Muslims celebrate the end of the fast with the festival of Eid Al-Fitr. The celebrations last for three days and Muslims usually give each other gifts. It is also customary for friends and families to gather in large groups and eat a lot! During Eid it’s traditional for Muslims to say ‘Eid Mubarak’ to each other which means Happy Eid.