Ramadan: Overview of a Muslim holiday
Ramadan is celebrated by over one billion Muslims worldwide. It is a time of spiritual purification during which Muslims fast and pray. Learn more about Ramadan, as well as what President Obama had to say about it.
Many people have heard of Ramadan, but aren't familiar with the purpose, what it means to Muslims or the practices that occur during Ramadan.
Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This year, Ramadan officially began on the evening of July 31, 2011, meaning that Monday was the first day of daylight fasting -- a central part of Ramadan.
Muslims fast each day of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset, as fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Many people associate fasting with Ramadan, and while that is an extremely important part of it, Ramadan isn't just about skipping food and beverages during daylight. Fasting is one of the ways that Muslims strengthen their beliefs.
And as the University of Colorado explains, "[Ramadan] is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. There are as many meanings of Ramadan as there are Muslims."
President Obama shared his thoughts on Ramadan on the White House Blog: "As Ramadan begins, Michelle and I would like to send our best wishes to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world. Ramadan is a festive time that is anticipated for months by Muslims everywhere."
"Families and communities share the happiness of gathering together for iftar and prayers. Bazaars light up the night in many cities from Rabat to Jakarta. And here in the United States, Muslim Americans share Ramadan traditions with their neighbors, fellow students, and co-workers."
The White House will host an iftar dinner again this year. Iftar is an evening meal following a day of fasting. Muslims who observe Ramadan break their fast at iftar, which occurs right after sunset.
The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid (or Eid-ul-Fitr). Eid is a three-day celebration of the conclusion of Ramadan that begins on the first of the September.
A helpful article on the Washington Post offers non-Muslims some Ramadan etiquette advice. The author describes Ramadan as a time "to renew our spiritual intentions, increase our knowledge, and change ourselves for the better." It's a great read if you're unsure how to acknowledge Ramadan with co-workers.