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Ramadan is the month during which over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset as it is obligated upon them; Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. According to the Hijri Clender (Islamic lunar calender), Ramadan is the ninth month that consists of either 29 or 30 days. Unlike the Gregorian Calendar, the beginning of a new month in the Hijri Calender is determined by sighting the new moon. Therefore, one of the most complicated issues among Muslim countries is deciding the first day of Ramadan each year. The reason is that it is sometimes not possible to observe the moon because of the weather condition. As a result, some countries started applying calculations to decide the first day of Ramadan in advance. Therefore, the main issue is that whether using calculations is allowed or not.


To be accurate, prophet Muhammed used to take a great care to determine the beginning of Shaban ( The 8th month in the Hijri Calender). Then, it was easier to count 29 days and sight the crescent. If sighting the crescent is not possible, then prophet Muhammed would complete Shaban to 30 days then start Ramadan. Scholars have used the following versus and Hadith to support their opinion:

From the Qur'an "So whoever of you sights the crescent of the first night of the month of Ramadan, he must observe saum (fast that month)."
It has been reported by Aishah (The wife of the prophet): "The messenger used to be more concerned about determining the beginning of shaban than about other months. Then used to fast at the sighting of the crescent of Ramadan. If it were obscure, he would count thirty days od Shaban and then fast."(Abu Dawud and Ahmed)
Also: "Fast when you see the crescent . If it is obscure to you, then complete thirty days in the count of Shaban."(Al-Buukhari and Muslim)

From the previous verse and Hadith by which muslims live accordingly, it is obvious that there are two requirements to start Ramadan. First, Muslims have to sight the crescent of Ramadan. Then, if it is not possible, they should count 30 days of Shaban before observing Ramadan. From that point of view, it has been clearly stated that calculations should not be used as it was not the tradition of Prophet Muhammed.

Sighting the Crescent of Ramadan: Sighting the crescent has to be done by two trustworthy Muslim witnesses and sometimes one reliable and trustworthy Muslim can be accepted.

From the Hadith: '' If two just Muslims witnesses testify that they saw the crescent of Ramadan, then fast or break your fast ''(Ahmed, an-Nassa'i and ad-Daraqutni)

The crescent of Ramadan.

*Deciding the first day of Ramadan is considered to be a complicated issue as it involves different opinions that are each equaly supported. That explains why muslim countries start Ramadan every year in different days.

The Islamic Lunar Calender (Hijri Calender):
Raby` al-awal
Raby` al-thaany
Jumaada al-awal
Jumaada al-thaany
Thw al-Qi`dah
Thw al-hijjah

The Obligation of Ramadan

Practices During Ramadan

The human relationship with food, which is a powerful symbol of the world, is cut off during fasting. This takes people into a great relief in this month. People are supposed to take advantage of the relief and attain God-consciousness. Most of the people in Muslim communities consider fasting as an ideal opportunity for attaining their heightened awareness. This is because one foregoes the normal routine of life and suspends his natural body needs. During this period, one becomes highly conscious of what is good and what is evil. Furthermore, fasting is beneficial because it is not usually observed by other observer, thus, it reduces possibly pious show.

Fasting during Ramadan is considered the forth pillar of Islam, and this takes asceticism and self control to its logical conclusion. Fasting takes place during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the lunar calendar. Since the lunar calendar is slightly shorter than the solar calendar, the month of fasting moves through the seasons. Ramadan is basically a systematic denial of anything that is taken by mouth---not only food, but also drink, medication and tobacco. Sexual relationship is also denied. All Muslim adults must obey these restrictions from before daybreak until sunset.

Reason for Fasting as stated in the Qur’an
1.Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear Signs for guidance and judgment Between right and wrong. So every one of you who is present at his home during that month should spend it in fasting. He wants you to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.[2:185]
2. O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before so that you may attain taqwa(God-consciousness).
3. God said, Fasting is for me, and I will personally grant reward for it. [Sabiq 1980:I,400]

Exceptions to Fasting

"The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and discrimination. Therefore, whosoever of you is present at home in this month, let him fast therein. But whoso is sick or is on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days. Allah desires to give you facility and He desires not hardship for you, and that you may complete the number, and that you may exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you may be grateful."[2:186]

From the previous verse it can be implied that fasting Ramadan is an obligatory practice that muslims have to observe. However, there are specific requirements to those who should fast:

1- Puberty (Baligh): at some point a baligh individual has been identified to be an individual who has reached the age of 15.
2- Sane and Discretion (Tamyeez): individuals who fast Ramadan should be mentally fit.
3- Physical fitness (Qadir): individuals who fast Ramadan should be certain that fasting will not cause them harm of any type due to thirst or hunger.
4- Resident (Muqim): individuals in a state of traveling can choose not to fast if they prefer.

*From the above requirements, we can conclude that children, people with mental illness, and women during the period of menstruation or of a post childbirth state are exempted from the obligation of fasting.

What Breaks Fasting
What Does not
Intentionally eating or drinking
Unintentionaly eating or drinking
Deliberate vomiting
Unintentional vomiting
The injection of blood or any other nourishing liquid into the body
The application of any medication that do not enter the stomach
The appearance of menstrual or post-partum bleeding
Bleeding nose or mouth
Sexual intercourse during the daytime
Tasting food as long as nothing paases the throat to the stomach
Ejaculation, if it comes as a result of an intentional act
Taking a necessary injection so long as it is not nutrition-based

There are exceptions to fasting, however. For example, those adults who are ill or travelling or women who are menstruating do not need to impose these restrictions upon themselves. Furthermore, pregnant women and women who are breast-feeding may delay the fast until a more convenient time. Children in many Muslim communities also join in on fasting during Ramadan and do as much as they can. Also, some people do not fast simply because they choose not to do so.

Even those who do not fast do not usually eat, drink or smoke in public. In fact, it is illegal to do so in some countries, while in other countries it is just a question of manner.

Meals During Ramadan
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Hasten to (eating) Iftaar (in Ramadhaan immediately when the time is due), and delay (eating) Suhoor.” (IslamWeb)


A group of Muslims congregating for Iftar.

Iftar, the meal eaten at the end of each day during the month of Ramadan, literally means “breakfast”. As the first meal to break the fast, it is eaten quickly after dusk, usually 12 to 15 minutes after the sun sets. Historically, the breaking of the daily fast was announced with a gunshot or call from the mosque. Today, however, the day’s end of fasting is announced through television, radio, or the internet.

Before a full meal is consumed, Muslims usually break the fast by drinking water or milk. Then at the time of the meal, a Dua is often recited in order to feel closer to Allah. Another Dua may also be recited at the time the first mouthful is taken. During the time of Iftar, one can rarely find a person on the streets, for most Muslims come together in their homes for the meal. It is also common for a community to meet in congregation to have Iftar. Once the meal has been completed, it is common to take a few hours for relaxation.


Suhur, the first meal of the day during the month of Ramadan, is named because it is eaten at the time of Sahr, which means the end of night. Although there is some controversy as to when the sun rises, Suhur always occurs before dawn, usually about a half hour before the sunrise. However, most Muslims simply stop eating Suhur one or two minutes before hearing Fajr, the prayer of dawn. Because it is necessary that Suhur give those who are fasting energy throughout the day, the meal is usually small but heavy. Other than the obvious consequence of going hungry if Suhur is omitted, there are other negative outcomes of skipping the meal as well. For example, the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam states that Suhur is necessary for proper fasting, and therefore against the Sunnah (IslamWeb).


Taraweeh Prayers

Taraweeh comes from the meaning “rest and relax”, and the Taraweeh prayers are perform ed specifically during Ramadan. Longer than the average Muslim prayer, the Taraweeh usually lasts longer than one hour. During this time, a person stands upright to recite long portions of the Qur’an, then does a cycle of four positions consisting of standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting. By the end of the month of Ramadan, the entire Qur’an is read. It is custom that the Taraweeh prayers be d one in a congregation with men and women in a mosque, usually after the last evening prayer, Isha. However, it is acceptable in most countries to also pray alone at home.

Further Introspection During the Nights

Other than the day-time commitment, the process of introspection is carried on further into the nights. Muslim society consider the nights of Ramadan as auspicious time in terms of

religion. Those nights are filled with additional prayers and more comprehension of the Qur’an. The latter one becomes more significant because Muslims believe that the Qur’an was brought down from the seventh heaven on the first heaven during the month.

“Charity is one of the five pillars of our faith, and in this month, you can give in many-fold because these are the blessed days of the year” -Rashed Nizam (Muslims emphasize charity during Ramadan.)

The month of Ramadan brings not only a month of fasting, but of charity as well. As a way of reflecting upon their spirituality, Muslims give back to the community in what they call Zakat. Although charity is obligatory during Ramadan for Muslims who are able to participate, many make donations selflessly. These donations usually consist of gifts to those who are suffering from poverty and hunger, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. A common charity throughout the Muslim world is to hold local food drives for those in need. One may also give the gift of a “Good Card” to friends of family, which allows the recipient to donate to their charity of choice.

Eid al Fitr

"Festival of Breaking the Fast"
Along with the festival following Hajj, Eid al Fitr is one of the most important celebrations in the Islamic community. Eid al Fitr marks the first day of the month of Shawwal and the end of the month of Ramadan. Unlike most celebrations, it is not linked to a historical event, but is a thanksgiving to Allah for providing strength to all during their time of fasting. Dressed in their finest attire, Muslims around the world decorate their homes and cities for this three day-long celebration. Many even splurge on sweets and exchange gifts with friends and family who come together as a congregation to pray.

A group of Muslims pray in congregation during Eid al Fitr.
A group of Muslims pray in congregation during Eid al Fitr.

Attitudes Toward Eid al Fitr
Although many Muslims practice Eid al Fitr, attitudes toward the festival vary. Traditional Muslims are usually happy with the feast that ends the fast. However, some modern Muslims are against the celebration, because they are not comfortable with the fact that food consumption actually increases during the festival ending Ramadan.

The Last Ten Days of Ramadan

Towards the end of the month, Muslims seek the miracle of another auspicious night, which according to the Prophet’s statement, anybody may experience. This auspicious night most likely falls within the odd nights of the last ten days and is known as "the night of power."

The Night of Power
The night of power is the night in which the Qur’an was revealed. This night makes it possible for those few who are chosen to seek the Qur’an. It is quite logical that the night should fall in the month of Ramadan, a month when there is highest self-control and vigilance among people.

Verses for the Night of Power in the Qur’an
Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down on the night of Al-Qadr (Power)
And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr (Power) is?
The night of
Al-Qadr (Power) is better than a thousand months.
Therein descend the angels and the
Ruh (Gabriel) by Allah’s Permission; on every errand.
Peace! Until the appearance of dawn. [97:1-5]

Different Perspectives

Non-Muslims in Muslim World During Ramadan

It is hard to get anything done during the Ramadan; as a result, Ramadan is rarely an enjoyable month for non-Muslims in Muslim world. It seems like, everyone else’s attention is not on you, and almost everything is shut when you want it to be open. The worst part, however, is that the subtle feeling of being out of joint of almost everything. For a non-Muslim, day and night is reversed.

Muslims in the Western Countries During Ramadan
For Muslims in the western countries, lives are reasonably very different. Most Muslims are not even aware that it is already Ramadan. They still have to work normal hours and make the same effort for their works. Moreover, the feast of them at the end of the fast usually is not a big celebration with their families, instead, a sandwich and a cup of beverage during the work is their entire feast.
In parts of west that are farther north, it is even not possible for Muslim to complete the fast. Because of the difference between the lunar calendar and the solar one, and some obvious geography properties, anyone who try to fast from dawn to sunset in, say, northern Canada or northern Sweden is unlikely to be alive during the end of the month.
However, sometimes, Muslims in the Western countries will arrange to break the fast together in a mosque or a community center, especially when the sunset is after the working hours. When they get together, Ramadan becomes a less lonely affair. For example, in places like Birmingham in England, the beginning of Ramadan will not be celebrated by fireworks, but most citizens will realize the start of Ramadan. In the streets, the lights in the kitchen will be switched on before dawn in most Muslim households. Meals are prepared and eaten to provide enough energy for a whole food-free day. Being a Muslim in this city is no longer lonely.


The month of Ramadan has brought much controversy around the world concerning the health effects of fasting. For example, stripping a person from their daily food intake can potentially cause symptoms such as dehydration, headaches, and sleep deprivation. Evidence has also shown that people who fast consistently have lower blood glucose and HDL levels, as well as increased LDL levels, than people who do not (Ramadan: health effects of fasting). Another important result of fasting one must consider is the effect of changing medication intake during the month of Ramadan. For example, Aslam et al found that, out of 81 patients that were studied, 35 stopped taking their medications during fasting, eight changed the times of intake, and four took their entire dose at one time (Aadil, et al). Obvious consequences of this behavior include a delayed effect of the drug, an unhealthy reaction to an overly high dose, or the possibility that the drug will not have its intended effect. A third risk of fasting includes those who have a serious illness requiring continuous doses of medications, such as those suffering from diabetes mellitus. Although followers of Islam often regard persons with serious medical illnesses as an exception of fasting, many Muslims continue to skip or change administration times of doses during Ramadan. Although the risks are high, evidence has shown that patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes can fast safely during Ramadan with proper administration of doses during the evening ( Belkhadir, et al).


scholarly sources:

Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane. Celebrating Ramadan. Boston: Holiday House, 2001.

Ahlstrand, Kajsa. Non-Muslims inMuslim majority societies. Eugene, Or: Pickwick Publications, 2009c.
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http://www.islamicpopulation.com/ (Feb 20 2010)Jessica:

Scholarly Sources:
Aadil, N., Houti, E. I., Moussamih, S. Drug Intake During Ramadan. BMJ Publishing Group. BMJ: British Medical Journal, Vol. 329, No. 7469 (Oct. 2, 2004), pp. 778-782.
Belkhadir, J., El Ghomari, H., Klöcker, N., Mikou, A., Nasciri, M., Sabri, M. Muslims with Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Fasting During Ramadan: Treatment With Gibenclamide. BMJ Publishing Group. BMJ: British Medical Journal. Vol. 307, No. 6899 (Jul. 31, 1993), pp. 292-295.
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