Ramadan is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. There are as many meanings of Ramadan as there are Muslims.
The third “pillar” or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one’s spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur’an, giving charity, purifying one’s behavior, and doing good deeds.
As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God’s bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.
We ask Allah to accept our fasting and our prayer at night, and to help us to remember Him and to thank Him and to worship Him properly.
Who Fasts in Ramadan?
While voluntary fasting is recommended for Muslims, during Ramadan fasting becomes obligatory. Sick people, travelers, and women in certain conditions are exempted from the fast but must make it up as they are able. Perhaps fasting in Ramadan is the most widely practiced of all the Muslim forms of worship.
From Dawn to Sunset
The daily period of fasting starts at the breaking of dawn and ends at the setting of the sun. In between — that is, during the daylight hours — Muslims totally abstain from food, drink, smoking, and marital sex. The usual practice is to have a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before dawn and a post-fast meal (iftar) after sunset. Every Muslim, no matter where he or she lives, will see an average Ramadan day of the approximately 13.5 hours.
Devotion to God
The last ten days of Ramadan are a time of special spiritual power as everyone tries to come closer to God through devotions and good deeds. The night on which the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet, known as the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr), is generally taken to be the 27th night of the month. The Qur’an states that this night is better than a thousand months. Therefore many Muslims spend the entire night in prayer.
During the month, Muslims try to read as much of the Qur’an as they can. Most try to read the whole book at least once. Some spend part of their day listening to the recitation of the Qur’an in a mosque.