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Ramadan begins

Ramadan (also known as Ramadhan or Ramzan) is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It is a time when Muslims around the world focus on prayer, fasting, giving to charity, and religious devotion. The last third of Ramadan is a particularly holy period, as it commemorates when the Koran's (Qu'ran) first verses were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Mohammad or Muhammed).
Ramadan tipical food after fast

An Iftar table for breaking the fast in Ramadan.

©iStockphoto.com/hemeroskopion

What do people do?

Muslims worldwide fast (or swam) during the hours of daylight in Ramadan. They do not eat, drink, smoke or engage in sexual intercourse during the fast. They also focus on reading the Koran (Qu'ran), donating to charities (zakaat), and certain activities such as refraining from gossip. Some people try to recite the entire Koran by the end of Ramadan.

Communal prayers and meals are held at mosques or in private homes in many Islamic communities in the evenings of Ramadan. The prayers and meals are usually well-attended. Some people spend the entire night praying or reading Islamic texts at a mosque, particularly on Laylat-al-Qadr, which is in the last third of Ramadan. Many people of Islamic faith give money for various charitable causes, such as providing food and new clothes for those in need.

The sun rises and sets at different times around the world so many people use applications, including time calculators, electronic reminders and printed calendars, to remind them of when the Ramadan fast starts (when the sun rises) and pauses (when the sun sets) in their time zone.

Timeanddate.com’s Sunrise and Sunset Calculator helps people find out when the sun rises and sets in their area. All times are adjusted for local time zones and daylight saving time. The calculator also provides a local time for dusk, dawn and twilight, as well as the sun’s distance, altitude, and day length.

Public life

Many businesses and organizations run by Muslim families or business operators may amend their business hours to suit prayer times during Ramadan in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. There may also be some congestion around mosques during prayer times, particularly in the evenings.

Background

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, which consists of 12 months and lasts for about 354 days. The word “Ramadan” is derived from an Arabic word for intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of food and drink. The month of Ramadan traditionally begins with a new moon sighting, marking the start of the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Many Muslims (except children, the sick and the elderly) abstain from food, drink, and certain other activities during daylight hours in Ramadan. Gossiping and fighting are also prohibited in this period.

Ramadan is considered as the holiest season in the Islamic year and commemorates the time when the Qu’ran (Islamic holy book) is said to have been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. This occurred on Laylat Al-Qadr, one of the last 10 nights of the month.  Ramadan ends when the first crescent of the new moon is sighted again, marking the new lunar month’s start. Eid-al-Fitr is the Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

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