What is Ramadan?
The month of Ramadan is the one in which the
Qur’an was sent down as guidance for mankind,
with Clear Signs containing guidance and discrimination. Any of you who are resident for the month should fast it. But any of you who are ill or on a journey should fast a number of other days.
Allah desires ease for you; He does not desire difficulty for you. You should complete the number of days and proclaim Allah’s greatness for the guidance He has given you so that hopefully you will be thankful. (2:185)
Ramadan is that time of year when Muslims recharge their spiritual batteries. For a whole month they fast from dawn to sunset, and offer additional prayers at night. After the end of Ramadan comes one of the two Muslim festivals, a day of Eid. On this day Muslims thank God for his guidance and grace in helping them to control their baser desires and fulfill their spiritual needs. Muslims agree on all the fundamentals of the fast. This makes the fasting a worldwide phenomenon observed by the devoted among the world’s one billion Muslims as one international community. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year which follows the lunar calendar. Each month begins with a sighting of the moon’s crescent and lasts 29 or 30 days until a sighting of the next month’s crescent.
Due to a difference of interpretation, some Muslims may begin and end Ramadan a day before the others. One interpretation accepts the sighting anywhere in the world, whereas the other interpretation prefers to wait for a sighting closer to home. Since neither interpretation rejects the Islamic sources, Muslims remain one international community despite this interpretive variety. Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed as a guidance for all mankind. It is a criterion by which to distinguish truth from falsehood. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that on each day of Ramadan, God frees many souls from the fire of Hell. Muslims should introduce the Qur’an’s teachings to others so they too can have the opportunity to be free. Fasting is a major feature of Ramadan. Many religions recognize the benefits of fasting, but only Islam institutes a month of it to secure its benefits for all its adherents. God prescribes in His book that all able bodied Muslims must fast. This will develop in them a consciousness that will help them towards right conduct and prevent them from wrongdoing. To obtain this result, a Muslim must stick to both the formal and informal aspects of the fast.
The formal aspects include abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sexual intercourse. The informal aspects of the fast are just as important. The fasting person must abstain from lying, cheating, argumentation, fighting, foul language and every sort of evil. In this month one has to cultivate a lasting awareness of God, and a keen sense to observe his commandments throughout the year. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that if someone does not give up falsehood in speech and actions, God has no need for such a one to give up his food and drink.