/Ramadan – the month of fasting

Ramadan – the month of fasting

The practice of Islam is based on the so-called Five Pillars. Fasting is the fourth pillar of Islam. The other pillars are the confession of faith, prayer, giving of alms, and pilgrimage. The month of Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Ramadan begins, as do other Islamic months, when the crescent moon is visible in the sky. A month is 29–30 days long and is also marked by when the new moon is visible.
Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. It helps if they eat something before daybreak to give themselves the energy to get through the day. Their fasting means they don’t eat or drink anything at all during daylight hours. After sunset, it is customary first to eat some dates, often an odd number of them, and to drink water or milk. Dates give a quick boost to their blood sugar. After that they pray the maghrib, the next-to-last of the day’s five prayers. The time spent in prayer is good for the stomach, as the dates and liquid prepare it to receive food after the day’s fast. The first proper meal after each day’s fast is called iftar, which means ‘breaking the fast’. The fast is broken by eating. Each evening of Ramadan is a daily celebration and guests, in particular, are treated to festive meals. However, it is not healthy to overeat after a day’s fast.
During Ramadan, Muslims strive to avoid all vices and forego all bodily desires during the daylight hours. The aim of the fast is to teach endurance and patience and strengthen faith. Fasting is thought to cleanse the soul and body. It also helps the person who fasts to develop empathy and compassion for people who are poor and hungry.
Muslims who are physically and mentally well, and have passed puberty, have a duty to observe the fast. Old people are exempt from fasting but, instead, give alms to the poor. Ill people and menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding women do not fast, but will at some later date make up the missed days of fasting.
During Ramadan there is much reading of the Qur’an. Many people read the Qur’an from cover to cover, some even several times. During the evenings of the month of Ramadan, long community prayers, called tarawih, are recited in mosques. Tarawih can also be prayed at home. The month of Ramadan is also called the Month of the Qur’an and there is also the Night of the Qur’an.