Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is considered the holiest month in the Islamic faith. Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory for all adult Muslims, except for those who are sick, pregnant, nursing, menstruating, traveling, or elderly. According to the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, which means that nearly a quarter of the world’s population participates in this spiritual practice.

Significance of Ramadan

Ramadan is a time of deep spiritual reflection, discipline, and self-improvement for Muslims. It commemorates the month in which the Quran, the Islamic holy book, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. During this month, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, refraining from food, drink, and other physical needs to purify the soul and focus on their faith.

The act of fasting is believed to bring Muslims closer to Allah (God) and develop empathy for the less fortunate. The World Bank estimates that around 9.2% of the global population lived in extreme poverty in 2021, making the awareness of others’ hardships during Ramadan even more poignant.

Fasting (Sawm)

Fasting, or Sawm, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is a core component of observing Ramadan. Each day during the month, Muslims wake up before dawn to eat a pre-fast meal called Suhoor and then begin their fast. They break their fast at sunset with a meal called Iftar, traditionally starting with dates and water.

Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory for all adult Muslims, but there are exceptions, such as for children, the elderly, pregnant or nursing women, travelers, and those who are ill. It is estimated that around 93% of Muslim adults fast during Ramadan, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey.

Prayer and Charity

In addition to fasting, Ramadan is also a time for increased prayer, reflection, and acts of charity. Muslims perform extra nightly prayers called Taraweeh, which are held in mosques and homes. The prayers provide an opportunity for Muslims to come together as a community and strengthen their faith.

Charity is another essential aspect of Ramadan, as Muslims are encouraged to give generously to those in need. Zakat, the obligatory giving of a portion of one’s wealth to the poor, is often paid during this month. According to the International Business Times, Muslims around the world donate an estimated $100 billion to charitable causes during Ramadan.

Eid al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr, or the “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” marks the end of Ramadan and is a joyous celebration that spans three days. Muslims come together with friends and family for communal prayers, feasts, and to exchange gifts. It is also a time for acts of charity, as Muslims are encouraged to provide food and gifts to the less fortunate, ensuring everyone can participate in the festivities.

According to the World Population Review, around 61 countries celebrate Eid al-Fitr as a public holiday, making it one of the most widely observed religious holidays across the globe.