All You Need to Know About Ramadan

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    All you need to know about Ramadan

    Here is all you need to know about Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

    y Gulf News

    y Published: 17:09 August 3, 2010

    yy Image Credit:

    What is Ramadan?

    The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan, is one of the most important periods in the

    Muslim year. It is a time of spiritual awakening, self-evaluation and remembrance of Allah,which Muslims observe through fasting and prayer. Ramadan teaches Muslims self-discipline,

    humility and giving. Charity is a significant part of Ramadan and Muslims are expected to helpthe needy.

    For more than a billion Muslims around the world, it is a time for devotion to God and self-

    restraint, when communal nightly prayers are conducted and the basic teachings of Islam areemphasised and Ummah (Islamic nation) consciousness is heightened.

    When does Ramadan fall?

    Ramadan falls 11 days earlier each year on the Gregorian calendar and the duration of the fastchanges depending on which season the month falls in.

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    The start of Ramadan, as that of all Islamic months, is based on the sighting of the new moon,the hilal, which is why the crescent is often used as an unofficial symbol of the month. The moon

    sighting is also the reason that the start of Ramadan differs from one country to another, butmany opt to follow Saudi Arabian sightings to be able to mark the days together.

    Who is required to fast?

    As one of the five pillars of Islam, fasting during Ramadan, which is considered one of the

    highest forms of worship, is obligatory for those Muslims past the age of puberty who arementally and physically fit and not travelling, as long as it does not cause them physical or

    mental harm.

    Those who cannot fast during Ramadan, owing to health or other reasons, may fast in other

    months, or feed the poor.

    What exactly is required?

    During a Ramadan fast, Muslims abstain from food, drink and sexual activity from dawn tilldusk. A fast consists of a true and verbal intention that must be recited, as well as a package of

    dos and don'ts which are specifically emphasised during the month.

    Fasting, or sawm (literally refrain), did not become obligatory until 624 AD. It is an opportunity

    to cleanse the body and mind and promote the principle of sincerity by keeping the individualaway from arrogance.

    Among the greatest benefits is the lesson in self-restraint and discipline that could be carried

    forward to other aspects of a person's life, such as work and education.

    A typical day of fasting begins with waking up before dawn to have a meal called the suhoorbefore the start of the fasting day. At sunset, Muslims usually break their fast upon the call for

    Maghreb (sunset) prayers with another meal called iftar. Prayers are conducted five timesthrough the day, as they are on all days, and an extra set of prayers called Taraweeh is conducted

    after Isha or night prayers.

    Work hours in the private sector are shortened by two hours for Muslims and non-Muslims.

    Guide to Ramadan terms

    Ramadan: The ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar.

    Sawm: The Arabic word for fast.

    Iftar: Ending of the fast immediately after sunset. Iftar takes place at the Maghrib Adhan (call toprayer) Traditionally the fast is ended with dates and water and is a time when friends and family

    come together

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    Suhoor: The pre-fast meal before dawn and Fajr (morning call to prayer).

    Taraweeh: Special congregational prayers conducted after Isha (night prayer)

    Qiyam-ul-Layl: Prayers during the last ten days of Ramadan, which

    Eid Al Fitr: Three-day celebrations marking the end of Ramadan. It takes place on the 1st of

    Shawal, the 10th month of the Islamic calendar.

    Fidya: Compensation for missing a fast, for those unable to, or wrongly practising it. Fidyausually takes the form of donating money, foodstuffs, or sacrificing an animal.

    Zakat Al Fitr: Muslims give away a certain percentage of the total value of all that they own

    annually and distribute it to charity and the needy. The contribution given at the end of Ramadan.

    Eid Mubarak: Greeting meaning "Have a happy and blessed Eid" expressed at the end of

    Ramadan.