Ramadan is a very special month for Muslims. It is when they believe the 'prophet' Muhammad received the first verses of the Qur'an. Fasting is done to make room for spiritual reflection and divert attention from worldly desires. Muslims are encouraged to spend more time reading the Qur’an and praying.
As one of the five 'pillars' of Islam, Ramadan is an essential part of the Muslim faith. Each year, millions of Muslims worldwide take part in this thirty-day fast. It is a difficult month, requiring much discipline, but it is a very special time of year for Muslims and for all the hardship includes a lot of celebration too.
The Islamic calendar is lunar and is therefore ten or eleven days shorter than the internationally recognised Gregorian calendar. Each month begins with the sighting of the crescent moon and each day begins at sunset. This year, Ramadan is due to begin on 20 July.
During Ramadan, Muslims are not allowed to eat, drink, swallow their own saliva, smoke or have sexual relations during the hours of daylight. Certain groups of people are exempt, including pre-pubescent children, pregnant women and those who are travelling. Some of these would be expected to make up the time they’ve missed at a later date.
A typical day in Ramadan starts early. Since fasting begins at dawn, it is important to get one last meal in beforehand. This is called Sahur. After this, most people go back to sleep for a while; the day will be long (especially in summer) so they will need extra strength. People generally sleep more during Ramadan and stay up later in the night. As the sun goes down, there is a sense of excitement. The fast is broken with a meal called Iftar.
Towards the end of Ramadan comes Lailatul Qadr, known also as the Night of Power. It specifically commemorates the giving of the first verses of the Qur'an and takes place towards the end of the fast, on one of the odd dates. Most commonly, it is observed on the 27th night of Ramadan, which would, this year, be 14 August. The Qur'an states that the Night of Power is 'better than a thousand months'. There is more hope for forgiveness and God's blessing so many spend hours at the mosque in prayer.
The end of Ramadan is celebrated with the Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday which takes place on the first day of the next month. New or best clothes are worn and money is given to those in need. A special Eid prayer is made and families gather to celebrate. In many ways the Eid is like Christmas. It lasts for one to three days.
Ramadan is an important time to pray for Muslims. Some will be more aware of spiritual things and perhaps more likely to have dreams and visions. Key things to pray for are hearts to be open and opportunities for Christian workers to share.
If you want to pray more in depth for Muslims this Ramadan, we highly recommend getting a copy of the 30 Days of Prayer booklet, which is available in many countries and costs only a few pounds/dollars. Additionally, we will be posting our own prayer requests during the month, so come back to the site or look out for us on Facebook and Twitter. Remember the date: Friday 20 July 2012.