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Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان)
is an Islamic religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar; the month in which the Qur'an was revealed[Qur'an 2:185] to the Prophet Muhammad [P.B.U.H]. In the western calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary, moving forward about ten days each year. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, sexual conduct, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until sunset Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramadan is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. Muslims also believed through good actions, they get rewarded twice as much as they normally can achieve. During Ramaḍān, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
Origins of Ramadan
The name "Ramaḍāma" had been the name of the ninth month in the Arab world long before the arrival of Islam; the word itself derived from an Arabic root rmḍ, as in words like "ramiḍa" or "ar-ramaḍ" denoting intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of rations. In the Qu'ran, God proclaims that "fasting has been written down (as obligatory) upon you, as it was upon those before you".
Laylat al-Qadr considered the most holy night of the year, is the night in which the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad(Peace Be Upon Him), the "Night of the Power". Muslims believe it to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during the last 10 days of Ramaḍān, either the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th (in Sunni thought) or the 19th, 21st or 23rd (in Shi'a thought). Ramaḍān ends with Eid ul-Fitr, with much celebration and feasts. During the month following Ramaḍān, called Shawwal, Muslims are encouraged to fast for a further six days, known as as-Sitta al-Bīḍ, or "the white six." When fasting is over, Muslims go to Mosques in new clothes to pray the first Eid prayer. They give out presents to the young ones and greet their friends and families. They then thank God for what he has given them.
Practices during Ramaḍān
The most prominent event of this month is fasting. Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world get up before dawn to eat Sahur, the pre-dawn meal, then they perform the fajr prayer. They have to stop eating and drinking before the call for prayer starts until the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib. Muslims may continue to eat and drink after the sun has set until the next morning's fajr prayer call. Then the process starts all over.
Ramadān is a time of reflecting and worshiping God. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual thoughts and activities during fasting hours are also forbidden.[Qur'an 2:187] Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised awareness of closeness to God.
The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control , sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity. However, A certain level of self-control can be lost by those who suffer from eating disorders.
Prayer and reading of the Qur'an
In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur'an. Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Qur'an by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, which are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (juz, which is 1/30 of the Qur'an) is recited. Therefore the entire Qur'an would be completed at the end of the month.
Ramadān is also a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment, establishing a link between themselves and God through prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others. Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it; this can involve buying new clothes, shoes and other items of need. There is also a social aspect involved the preparing of special foods and inviting people for the Iftar meal (the meal to open the fast).
The Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر) marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted. The Eid falls after 29 or 30 days of fasting, as per the lunar sighting. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fast; a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor (â€˜Zakat al-Fitrâ€™), everyone puts on their best, usually new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends. The prayer is two rakaahs only, and it is optional (Wajib)prayer as opposed to the compulsory five daily prayers.
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