Saturday, October 24, 2009
Ramadhan (Arabic: رمضان) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
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 Suhoor or (meaning "something we eat at Sahar"), 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 break their fast at Magrib (at sunset) prayer time with a meal called Iftar. 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.
Ramadhan 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 activities during fasting hours are also forbidden. Purity of both thoughts and actions 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.
Muslims should start observing the fasting ritual upon reaching the age of puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. The elderly, the chronically ill, and the mentally ill are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed the poor in place of their missed fasting. Also exempt are pregnant women, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns.