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Ramadan, which began on April 2, 2022, is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. It was during this ninth month that Jibril (the archangel Gabriel in the Judeo-Christian faith) revealed the first verses of the Quran — Islam's holy text — to the Prophet Muhammad. The auspicious month's start is based on the appearance of the super-slim young crescent Moon, which generally appears one night after the new Moon.
An estimated two billion Muslims worldwide observe Ramadan by abstaining from food or drink from sunrise to sunset. Fasting is one of the five pillars — or duties — of Islam, along with the testimony of faith, prayer, charitable giving, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca. The temporary deprivation of sustenance is believed to renew awareness and gratitude for everything Allāh (God) has provided. It also cultivates compassion for those less fortunate.
A typical Ramadan Day
During Ramadan, observers rise before dawn to eat their first meal. Known as Suhoor, or Suhur, the spread comprises a variety of protein-rich traditional dishes, fresh fruits, and vegetables. The feast is followed by morning prayers, after which everyone goes about their regular daily routine.
Most Muslims break the fast at sunset by eating 1 to 3 dates — just as Muhammad did when he broke his fast. Observers then conduct a five to 15-minute-long prayer, before settling down for the day's second, more substantial, meal. Called Iftar, the feast is usually a communal affair enjoyed with extended family members and friends. Many mosques also organize free Iftar gatherings.
The meal is followed by the night prayer called Taraweeh. Derived from the Arabic word meaning "to rest and relax," it is a form of Islamic meditation. Taraweeh prayers are usually held at a mosque. They involve reading portions of the Quran and performing rakahs — cycles of movement involved in Islamic prayer. The prayers can last up to two hours.
Ramadan ends with the sighting of a new Moon — typically after 29 to 30 days. This year, it is expected to end on May 2. The month of fasting and prayers is followed by Eid al-Fitr, or the "festival of breaking the fast." The celebrations, which can last up to three days, begin with communal prayers to thank Allah for providing endurance and strength during Ramadan. At about midday, observers dressed in traditional finery head to visit family and friends or gather in public venues to enjoy a feast with community members. Eid is akin to Christmas for Muslim children, with many receiving money or gifts from their elders.
Charitable giving, or Zakat, believed to purify one's wealth, is the third pillar of Islam. Ramadan is considered the most auspicious time of the year to make the mandatory donation. Most Muslims must donate 2.5 percent of the wealth accumulated over the previous lunar year. Those who do not meet the minimum wealth threshold, or nisab, offer sweet bread and dates instead.
Resources: Wikipedia.com, theguardian.com, bbc.co.uk,