Our Global Community: Ramadan Explained

The Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan began on April 12th and amid everything going on in the world, Muslims across the world will be observing it in some form. But what exactly is Ramadan?

For Muslims, Ramadan is the most important month of the year and is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The Prophet Mohammed said: “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed and the devils are chained.”

It is believed by Muslims that God revealed the first verses of the Quran (Islam’s sacred text) to Mohammed during this month, on a night known as “The Night of Power”.

Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. This month of spiritual discipline is one where Muslims contemplate their relationship with God, take time to pray and practise generosity.

As much as it is a time for devotion and reflection, it is also meant to be a time to enjoy with family and friends. The end of the Holy Month is signified with a three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr, or the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.

Fasting during Ramadan is required for all Muslims, however there are dispensations for those who are ill, travelling, pregnant or nursing, the elderly and young children.

There are several reasons Muslims have for fasting: to be reminded of their dependence on God for sustenance, to reduce the distractions in life to focus on their relationship with God and to understand what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty in order to feel compassion for those who are in need.

During the fast, Muslims abstain from eating any food, drinking any liquids, smoking cigarettes and engaging in sexual activity. Doing any one of these things “invalidates” your fast, with Muslims having to make up the days missed later on in the year.

As this is a time for deep devotion, Muslims are encouraged restrain from negative thoughts and emotions, limit acts such as swearing, complaining and gossiping and partake in more positive, productive activities.

A typical day for a Muslim during Ramadan involves waking up before dawn to eat the first meal of the day; this would usually involve many high-protein foods and making sure to drink lots of water.

Arabian family eating iftar during Ramadan.

At dawn, a morning prayer is performed. Following the prayer, some Muslims may return to sleep before fully beginning activities for the day.

Muslims are not supposed to avoid regular activities during the day just because they are fasting, however in Muslim countries some schools and businesses may reduce their hours.

In the evening, a call to prayer is made whereby Muslims break their fast with a light meal before performing the evening prayer. Many Muslims go to a Mosque to perform the evening prayer, which is followed by a special prayer only recited during Ramadan.  

A larger meal follows the evening prayers which is usually shared together with family and friends in each other’s homes throughout the month.

For more information on Ramadan, please visit: and

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