Ramadan Fasting: Brief Introduction

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    Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, is intended to draw attention to the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, in which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was given the Qur’an. The Ramadan celebration is named after the month during which it occurs.

    // Origin of the Name

    The name Ramadan is used for both the ninth month of the Islamic year as well as the holy festival that occupies that month. The word Ramadan is derived from ramḍ, which is Arabic for heat. In other contexts, the same root is used to refer to burnt earth, a hot climate or a lack of food. This relates to the daytime fasting that Muslims are expected to perform during Ramadan.

    Historical Origin

    The Holy Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on a date known as Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Power. Allah gave Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) the teachings of the Qur’an and set him on his path to becoming a prophet and the leader of the Islamic faith. All Muslim sects believe that the Night of Power occurred during the month of Ramadan, although there is some disagreement as to the specific date. Still, the event is so much a cornerstone of Islam that the entire month is given over to its remembrance.

    Fasting

    During the month of Ramadan, all able adult Muslims are expected to fast. This fast involves waking before sunrise to eat the Sahur meal. The morning call to prayer, known as the fajr, marks the beginning of that day’s fast. Maghrib, the day’s fourth prayer, occurs at sundown. Following Maghrib, Muslims may again eat and drink freely until the next morning’s fajr. Besides abstaining from food and drink, the concept of fasting involves a purity of thoughts and a focus on God.
    Fasting is the most important aspect of Ramadan, and also the most well known to non-Muslims. By not eating, Muslims’ bodies and minds focus their energy on spiritual pursuits instead.

    Other Practices

    Besides fasting, Muslims are expected to devote additional time to prayer during Ramadan. A Muslim endeavors to read the entire Qur’an over the course of the month. Good deeds are valued twice as highly if performed during Ramadan, and so charitable work is often undertaken. For Muslims who are unable to fast due to medical reasons, it is expected that they will devote time or money toward feeding the poor as a substitute for their own fasting.

    End of Ramadan

    Ramadan ends with the Eid ul-Fitr holiday, which signifies the breaking of the fast from the previous month. Besides being again allowed to eat regularly, Muslims are expected to donate food to the poor. New clothes are worn for the first time during a communal prayer service.