Muslims PixabayIn 610 A.D. Muhammad was visited by the Angel Gabriel in a cave a few miles from Mecca. This first revelation from Allah is commemorated each year as Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which in the Gregorian year of 2020 begins on April 23 and ends May 23.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset without food or water, although there are exceptions for children, the ill and elderly. Before sunrise observant Muslims eat suhoor, a morning meal, and after sunset iftar, the evening meal.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, which includes reciting the Muslim profession of faith, giving alms for the poor, praying five times a day and making the pilgrimage to Mecca. During Ramadan fasting reminds Muslims of the suffering of less fortunate people, and brings them to a stronger awareness of Allah.

In addition to fasting, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain from smoking, sex, anger, swearing, gossip, jealousy and negative activities.

Karma Marwan Elsayed, a 30-year old student from Cairo vacationing in California, is spending her first Ramadan abroad, and said that in Cairo, everyone fasts but it is a very festive time. During Ramadan, she said, “You don’t do anything that is bad or negative, such as lying or cursing – it’s very cleansing in a way. If you do something good it is counted as ten good things, but if you do something bad it is only counted as one bad.” She laughs and says the most difficult part for her is giving up coffee in the morning. On the day after Ramadan, she says there is a three-day celebration that is a national holiday.

This Ramadan is likely to be a bit different around the world, as many countries are requiring people to stay at home so the large communal meals after dark and the celebration at the end of Ramadan are likely to be greatly reduced or halted until after the COVID-19 threat has passed.