Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. What happens during Ramadan and what does it mean to millions of Muslims worldwide?

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What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims all over the world. Observing Ramadan is one of the five 'pillars' of Islam. During Ramadan, all Muslims over the age of about 12, with some exceptions, are expected to fast between dawn and sunset.  

When does it take place?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which follows the phases of the moon. This means the dates of Ramadan change each year. The month starts when the new crescent moon is first visible in the night sky. Fasting ends with the arrival of the next lunar month, which starts with the first glimpse of the new crescent moon.

How do people fast?

During Ramadan, the day starts early so that people can eat a pre-fast meal before dawn. This meal, called Suhoor, is important as it will keep them going through the day. During daylight hours, fasting Muslims cannot eat food or drink water or any other drinks. In late spring or early summer, this is particularly difficult as the day can be very long. People who live in polar regions, where daylight can last 22 hours or more, can choose to follow the dawn and sunset times in Mecca or a nearby country where the sky is dark at night.  

Are all Muslims expected to fast?

Not all Muslims are expected to fast. Children under the age of 12, people who are travelling, elderly people, pregnant women and others where it may affect their health are exempt. Those who can't fast for any reason can offer to feed poor people for each day they miss during Ramadan.

What happens at sunset?

People can eat and drink again once the sun has set. The traditional way to break the fast is by eating dates and drinking a glass of water. Then, the evening meal, Iftar, is a social event that can go on for hours. It is common for people to eat together in large groups of family and friends. Special foods are prepared and shared, and desserts are particularly popular. Muslims often include charity in Iftar as well, sharing Iftar with members of the community who cannot buy or make their own food. Across the Muslim world, mosques and aid organisations set up tents and tables for the public in poorer communities to eat free Iftar meals every night of Ramadan.

Why do people fast?

Muslims fast during Ramadan to bring them closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of people who are less fortunate than themselves. Fasting is an exercise in self-control. As well as not eating, drinking or smoking, Muslims try to avoid bad actions, like talking about people behind their backs or using bad language. Ramadan is a time for people to work on being more patient, more tolerant and more mindful of the people around them. It is a moment to reflect and work on being better people.

Many Muslims also donate money to charities during the month, and a lot of Islamic charities organise food packs for people in poorer countries or refugee camps. Giving donations to charity, known as Zakat, is particularly important during the holy month, and so is prayer, meditation and reading the Qur'an.

How is the end of Ramadan celebrated?

Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the month of fasting. There are many Eid traditions, mainly centred around family, food, generosity and festivities. On Eid ul-Fitr, Muslims wake up early and dress in their finest clothes to attend the Eid prayers. After prayers, they wish each other a happy Eid ('Eid Mubarak' in Arabic) before spending the rest of the day with their extended families, enjoying good food and sharing gifts with children and loved ones.

Discussion

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Comments

Although we are not Arab but in my country some people fast in Ramadan, It is a rule that people can't eat and drink during Ramadan and people don't obey this rule will be punished. many people don't obey that rule because they can't stay hungry and thirsty during this long time and some of them don't Believe
Ramadan.
In my country girls should fast after 9 years old and boys should do it after age 15. I think it is not fair a 9 years old girl which is just a child considered grown up while a 15 years old boy is really grown up. In fact all the rules in our relegion is against women.
Here resturants should be closed during Ramadan but in many offices people eat and drink during Ramadan though in governmental office it is not allowed, so if you can't fast you should find a place to eat and drink secretly.

ok maybe for you from outside it is really beautiful and meaningful but for me here is just a hell and there is no meaning to fast or anything imagine when don't drink 20 hours everyday what happened to you? you'd better edit your article

Hello parisaach

Thank you for sharing your experience and opinion. We did quite a bit of research for this article and had it checked by colleagues who also know Ramadan first hand. I'm sorry that what it relates does not reflect your experience.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry dear Kirk it is not your fault it is our government's . Maybe even Ramadan be beautiful if you be free to choose fast or not fast, but when you should do something by force, it makes you hate that.
Thank you for your attention

I myself have never observed Ramadan but I know it through some shorts documentary films and our Vietnamese girls' stories on magazines. Some Vietnamese girls, including one of my friends, have gotten married with Iranian men. They are happy when describing about the Ramadan with full of love and proud.
In Vietnam, as I've known that we have a traditional Budish event which has some aspects near Ramadan. The similar things are we counting the year by the moon and we fast somehow or vegetarian. Pagodas also do charity for poor people.
The difference is we do the event at the full moon every month while Ramadan is at the crescent moon once a year. In addition, we don't really fast, because we can still eat vegetable but meat. We even make vegetable to every kinds of food. Time for vegetarians is flexible. It is often happened on one day or some, but some Budish followers do it as long as they want.

Nice practice and Eid mubarak for all :) !!!

Yes I do. Ramadan is my favourite month. I always fast during Ramadan every year as long as I'm in a healthy condition. I really feel tired but It's ok as it bring us closer to God. Eid will be in 4 days so I wish a happy eid for all muslims around the world.

Can anyone please explain why is it "exercise in self-control" not 'exercise of self-control' in the text about Ramadan?
Thanks.

Hello Huda A.
The phrases are similar in meaning.
~
We use the phrase 'an exercise in...' to mean 'a test of...'
In the text, fasting is described as an exercise in self-control because it is a test of self-control: without self-control, you cannot succeed in this.
~
The phrase 'the exercise of...' means 'using...'
You could say, therefore, that 'fasting requires the exercise of self-control'.
~
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

I kindly request to bbc to write a magazine about world famous chariot festival in india,Odisha ,puri

Hello Udaya kumar

Thanks for your suggestion! I have added it to our list of festivals and special days to consider for future articles.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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