Ramadan Primer

Learn the basics of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year and one of the five pillars of Islam. And visit "The Beliefnet Guide to Ramadan" to learn more about this spirtual fasting month.
When It Happens Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, which is based on the moon. The western dates of the holiday move up about 10 days every year. In 2010, Ramadan is predicted to begin on August 11th and end on September 10th.
Significance The Qur'an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadan. The month is a special time of worship, Qur'an reading, charitable acts, and individual reflection and purification.
Main Qur'anic Source "Ramadan is the month during which the Qur'an was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein" (2:185).
What's Prohibited
  • Eating and drinking from dawn to sunset
  • Sexual activity during those hours
  • Smoking during those hours
  • Using profane language
  • Backbiting (speaking ill of others) is also discouraged
Why the Fast Among many reasons, Muslims fast to heighten spirituality and practice self-restraint, as the Qur'an states, "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may [learn] self-restraint" (2:183).
Who Should Fast All Muslims who have reached puberty are required to fast. Exceptions include men and women who are too old to fast, those who are too ill, women in the advanced stages of pregnancy, and women who are menstruating.
Other Requirements
  • Five daily prayers must be offered for that day's fast to have meaning
  • Reading the entire Qur'an during the month is strongly recommended
  • The recitation of the Taraweeh prayer, or Night prayer following the 'Isha prayer, the obligatory fifth daily prayer, is strongly recommended
Important Meals
  • Suhur, the meal before daybreak
  • Iftar, the meal after sunset, eaten as soon as possible after the sun sets
End of the Fast Each day's fast is broken with water and dates before the prayers and Iftar, the evening meal.
The Night of Power Laylat Al Qadr, or the Night of Power, occurs on the night of one of the odd days during the last ten days of Ramadan. It is widely believed to fall on the 27th day of Ramadan. This night is commemorated as the night Prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur'an. The Qur'an calls this night "better than a thousand months." Muslims spend the night in prayer and devotion.
End of the Month Muslims celebrate the end of the fast with the joyous festival of Eid Al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast. They attend special congregational prayers in the morning and greet each other with "Eid Mubarak," or "Holiday Blessings."