For the devout Muslim, Ramadan is the month of the greatest spiritual significance.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It does not correspond to any set time on the conventional Gregorian calendar, as the beginning of Ramadan shifts back ten to eleven days each year, meaning it can occur any time from January through December.
Ramadan is said to be the month in which the transmission of the holy Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad commenced. It is a time that Muslims are enjoined to recommit themselves to Allah, to prioritize religious and moral concerns over worldly matters, and to humbly identify themselves with the less fortunate.
Muslims place themselves under many restrictions in order to refocus their minds on holy pursuits during Ramadan. Sins such as lying, gossip, greed, and covetousness are to be even more scrupulously avoided. During the daylight hours, there is to be no smoking, sex, profane language, nor other self-indulgence.
But what non-Muslims are likeliest to be familiar with about Ramadan is the Ramadan fast. For the other thing Muslims must forego during the daylight hours of that entire month is all eating and all drinking, even water.
Clearly the habits and lifestyle of a Muslim must change to accommodate the Ramadan restrictions. In Muslim countries, work schedules are altered, and restaurants are closed during the daytime. Muslims rise well before dawn so that they will have time for a morning meal-known as the “suhur”-before the sun is up. They have an early evening meal-known as the “iftar”-shortly after the sunset, and then must retire for the night very early in order to be able to get up for the suhur.
Not all Muslims come under the Ramadan restrictions. Exemptions are permitted for children below the age of puberty, the elderly, the chronically ill, the mentally ill, menstruating women, pregnant women, nursing women, and people traveling long distances.
The purpose of Ramadan is not simply to mechanically observe certain rituals and pointlessly starve oneself during the day. And it’s certainly not to starve during the day and then binge to make up for it-the suhur and iftar should be modest meals. It is a time to practice self-discipline and self-denial as an expression of solidarity with the many people who go hungry all year. It is a time to turn away from the profane habits and sins that can normally bog a person down, in order to concentrate instead on moral and religious duty.
The time that the Muslim might otherwise have been in a restaurant, pursuing money, pursuing sex, engaged in idle socializing and gossip, etc., during Ramadan can instead be spent in a mosque engaged in prayer, home with one’s family, or doing good deeds for the poor.
Nor must Ramadan end when the month ends. Though the specific observances such as the daylight fast only apply to that month, the righteous attitudes and habits inculcated during Ramadan are intended to carry over as much as possible to the year as a whole.
“The Fast of Ramadan.” Holidays.net.
“Ramadan Primer.” Beliefnet.
“Ramadan, the Month of Fasting.” Colorado State.