Also known as the holy month, Ramadan is a month-long holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world to mark the month Allah gave the first chapters of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. This year, Ramadan begins on May 5 and ends on June 4 in the United States.
Ramadan is a month of prayer, fasting and nightly feasts marked by the first sighting of the new moon. Since the moon is not in the same phase at the same time around the world, different regions begin and end the holiday at slightly different times.
Those who celebrate this holiday fast between dawn and dusk. According to NBC News, “the fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate.”
During the holy month, Muslims wake up early and eat a pre-dawn meal called
“Suhoor.” There is not one version of this meal, as it varies depending on the region and countries. In Lebanon and Syria, Suhoor is usually made up of a flatbread with thyme, cheese and yogurt. In Afghanistan, people eat dates and dumplings.
The fast is broken each night with a small meal called “Iftar.” Traditionally, this is a sip of water followed by dates, representing the same meal Prophet Muhammad used to break his fast hundreds of years ago. Iftar is a social event and it is common for mosques to host large events for the meal.
Not every Muslim is required to fast. There are exceptions for children who have not yet reached puberty, sick people, elderly people or women who are menstruating, pregnant or breast feeding. Professional athletes who are traveling are not required to fast either.
Ramadan is a month of not only fasting but also self-restraint. Smoking cigarettes, using drugs and drinking alcohol are not allowed during the holy month. According to The Islamic Association of Raleigh, sexual intercourse, even between spouses, is not allowed during the fast.
There is a three-day festival at the end of Ramadan. Sometimes called the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, Eid al-Fitr begins when the new moon is first seen, symbolizing a complete lunar cycle since the beginning of Ramadan.
Edi al-Fitr, much like Ramadan, is celebrated differently by different countries and regions. The festival typically begins with a prayer followed by a sermon. According to Al Jazeera, “many people wear traditional clothes, give gifts or money to children and donate to charity” during the festival.