The holiest month in the Islamic faith—Ramadan—will take place from July 20 through Aug. 18, 2012, 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). Despite the number of historic events that took place in this holy month, 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. On this night, thousands of Muslims gather together–usually in a mosque–to pray, recite Quran and worship until sunrise. Recitation of the entire Quran is also important to achieve throughout this month.
2. Throughout this month, Muslims do not eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset. Fasting in Arabic is called sawm, and in English that means refrain. Fasting is supposed to teach self-descipline, 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 (sin). That includes backbiting, gossip, looking at unlawful things and using obscene words.
3. When Muslims break their fast it is called “Iftar." But Muslims don’t break their fast on just any food. Most take their first bite of the day from a fresh or dry date. This is preferred because the prophet Muhammad used to break 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. It is the Muslim holiday that is celebrated after a new moon is sighted. People celebrate the Eid beginning with Salat al-Eid, a specific prayer for the day and visit family and close friends. Similar to Christmas or other religious holidays, Muslims tend to decorate their homes with lights and banners and exchange gifts that are usually clothes or money.
Ramadan Mubarak (Have a blessed Ramadan)!