By Guillaume Paumier (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Guillaume Paumier (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ramadan is meant for prayer and reflection on religious teaching.

Every year, Muslims all over the world celebrate 30 days of fasting and prayer. They call this period Ramadan. This year, Ramadan began on the night of May 26. Here are five things everyone should know about Ramadan.

1. Ramadan celebrates the origin of Islam and personal connection to Allah

Ramadan is meant for prayer and reflection on religious teaching to develop a closer connection to Allah. It celebrates the origin of Islam, when Allah gave the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad. For some Muslims, Ramadan is so important that they name their sons after the period.

2. There are rules for behavior during Ramadan

The most well-known rule is to retrain refrain from eating (and drinking anything, even water) during the daytime. All Muslims are expected to forgo eating during the daytime but eat during the night. However, some groups, such as the pregnant and the elderly are exempted from this rule. Others, like menstruating women, can forgo the fast for a period of time, but they have to compensate before the end of Ramadan. Additionally, Muslims abstain from lying, gossiping, or any other bad habits.

Different sects break their fast at various times. The Shi’ite Muslims break their fast when all daylight fades, while the Sunnis eat as soon as the sun is out of sight. For most Islamic households, breaking fast is done by eating dates before the Iftar, the meal shared by Muslims during nights of the Ramadan. The Iftar is a communal and fun occasion, with Muslims visiting each other to join in the festivities.

3. The dates of Ramadan are both fixed and changing

Ramadan, like most holy periods for other religions, comes once every year. Muslims celebrate Ramadan during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Because of its dependence on the lunar calendar, Ramadan falls on different days each year. Last year Ramadan came in June, this year Muslims started celebrating it in May.

Muslims are expected to observe a fast every day and eat every night. During the daylight fasting period, Muslims pray and reflect on their teachings.

4. It comes with its own greetings

When December comes, you may start hearing ‘Happy Holidays!’ It’s the same for Ramadan. During this holy month, most Muslims will greet each other in one of two ways. Either they will wish each other Ramadan Mubarak which roughly translates to ‘blessed Ramadan’ or Ramadan Kareem, which roughly means ‘generous Ramadan.’ If you are not a Muslim you can also wish your Islamic friends Eid Mubarak or ‘Holiday Blessings.’

5. Non-Muslims can be helpful during Ramadan

Non-Muslims can support and offer encouragement while worshippers go through fasting. Avoid using or offering food, cigarettes, and other habits being abstained can be helpful as well. It can be as simple as just checking in and asking questions about how they are doing or specific questions about Ramadan.

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