10 Questions And Answers About Ramadan
1) Who celebrates Ramadan?
More than 1 billion Muslims worldwide celebrate Ramadan, including more than 6 million
in the United States. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, with
Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Turkey following. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in
2) When is Ramadan?
Ramadan starts at the beginning of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Because
Islam observes a lunar calendar, the official beginning occurs at different times around
the globe, based on when the crescent moon is first seen. The lunar calendar is about 11
days shorter than the solar calendar, and this year Ramadan begins Nov. 16 or Nov. 17,
depending where in the world you are. In 2002, it will begin Nov. 6.
3) What is the derivation of "Ramadan"?
Ramadan is derived from the Arabic word ar-ramad, meaning "parched thirst,"
and is also the name of the ninth month of the lunar calendar.
4) How did Ramadan begin?
In approximately 610 A.D., a caravan trader named Muhammad began wandering the desert
near Mecca (in today's Saudi Arabia). The angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him he
had been chosen to receive the world of Allah. In the days that followed, Muhammad began
speaking and transcribing the words to the Quran (also spelled "Koran"), the
sacred book of Islam.
Muslims consider the Quran to be God's literal speech, recorded in the Arabic language,
and transmitted through humanity via Muhammad, who is considered the last of a chain of
prophets that included Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus.
5) How is Ramadan celebrated?
Ramadan is a month of heightened devotion, a time that the doors of heaven are kept
open, and the doors of hell are closed, and Satan is kept in chains. Muslims go through a
period of intense reflection and devotion, seeking guidance and forgiveness.
Muslims practice sawm, or fasting, during the entire month. This means they may eat or
drink nothing, including water, while the sun shines. Married adults also refrain from
marital relations during the hours of fasting (i.e. the daylight hours).
Other duties include five daily prayers and the recitation of the Taraweeh prayer, or
Night prayer. At mosques during Ramadan, about one-thirtieth of the Quran is recited in
prayers called tarawih. By the end of Ramadan, the entire Quran has been recited.
6) Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam. The Quran says that the main
reason behind fasting is to attain taqwa, or God-consciousness. While they are hungry and
thirsty, Muslims are reminded of the suffering of the poor. Fasting is also an opportunity
to practice self-control and to cleanse the body and mind.
In the Muslim world, most restaurants are closed during the daylight hours during
Ramadan. Families get up early for suhoor, a meal eaten before the sun rises. After the
sun sets, the fast is broken with a meal known as iftar which usually includes dates,
fresh fruits, appetizers, beverages and dinner.
All Muslims partake in the customs and celebration of Ramadan, starting at
approximately age 12. 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.
7) What does the Quran say about Ramadan?
"The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Quran was sent down, a guidance for
mankind, clear proofs for the guidance, the Criterion; so whoever amongst you witnesses
this month, let him fast it." (Surah al-Baqarah 2:185)
The hadith, a collection of the sayings of Muhammad, recommends the following: Study
the Quran. Come together for this purpose. Check your memory of the Quran. Increase your
recitation of the Quran.
8) Why are some Muslims questioning military strikes in Afghanistan during Ramadan?
This question is complicated and contains a sometimes volatile history. And the answers
will differ from person to person. It is true that Ramadan is the holiest time in the
Islamic calendar, a time in which nations and civilizations have been known to clear up
their animosities for the sake of honoring Allah. On the other hand, there is also
historical precedent for Islamic countries launching attacks during Ramadan, such as in
the so-called Ramadan War (a.k.a. Yom Kippur War) in which Egypt and Syria launched an
offensive on Israel in 1973 during Ramadan. For more information about this dilemma, look
at the links at the bottom of this story.
9) How and when does Ramadan end?
Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which in 2001 will occur on Dec. 17.
Literally the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," Eid al-Fitr is one of the two
most important Islamic celebrations (the other occurs after the Hajj, or pilgrimage to
Mecca). At Eid al-Fitr people dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights
and decorations, give treats to children, and enjoy visits with friends and family. At the
end of Ramadan, Muslims give Zakat al Fitr, a monetary contribution to the poor or their
10) Where can I learn more about Ramadan?
Ramadan on Islam.com
The Crescent Moon of
Why Muslims Fast