Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and the holiest of the four holy months. It is during this month that Muslims observe the Fast of Ramadan. Lasting for the entire month, Muslims fast during the daylight hours and in the evening eat small meals and visit with friends and family. It is a time of worship and contemplation. A time to strengthen family and community ties. The month of Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, doing good deeds and spending time with family and friends.




Islam uses a lunar calendar—that is, each month begins with the sighting of the new moon. Because the lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar used elsewhere, Islamic holidays "move" each year. In 2005 Ramadan began on Oct. 5.

Why this Month?

Muslims believe that during the month of Ramadan, Allah revealed the first verses of the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam. Around 610 A.D., a caravan trader named Muhammad took to wandering the desert near Mecca (in today's Saudi Arabia) while thinking about his faith. One night a voice called to him from the night sky. It was the angel Gabriel, who told Muhammad he had been chosen to receive the word of Allah. In the days that followed, Muhammad found himself speaking the verses that would be transcribed as the Qur'an.

At many mosques during Ramadan, about one thirtieth of the Qur'an is recited each night in prayers known as tarawih. In this way, by the end of the month the complete scripture will have been recited.

Fasting

Muslims practice sawm, or fasting, for the entire month of Ramadan. This means that they may eat or drink nothing, including water, while the sun shines. It begins with the sighting of the new moon after which all physically mature and healthy Muslims are obliged to abstain from all food, drink, gum chewing, or any kind of tobacco use, between dawn and sunset. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and the sick are except from the fast. Fasting is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam. As with other Islamic duties, all able Muslims take part in sawm from about age twelve.

The fasting is intended to help teach Muslims self-discipline, self-restraint and generosity. It also reminds them of the suffering of the poor, who may rarely get to eat well. It is common to have one meal (known as the Suhoor), just before sunrise and another (known as the Iftar), directly after sunset. After Suhur, everyone offers the Fajr prayer together. Even young children should fast at least a few days during Ramadan. Many kids also give up eating their favorite foods and try to improve themselves by avoiding bad habits. Iftar usually begins with dates and sweet drinks that provide a quick energy boost. This meal will commonly consist of dates, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad. During Ramadan in the Muslim world, most restaurants are closed during the daylight hours.

Fasting serves many purposes. While they are hungry and thirsty, Muslims are reminded of the suffering of the poor. Fasting is also an opportunity to practice self-control and to cleanse the body and mind.

Eid al-Fitr



Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which in 2005 occurs on November 4. Literally the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," Eid al-Fitr is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations (the other occurs after the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca). At Eid al-Fitr people dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children, and enjoy visits with friends and family.

A sense of generosity and gratitude colors these festivities. Although charity and good deeds are always important in Islam, they have special significance at the end of Ramadan. As the month draws to a close, Muslims are obligated to share their blessings by feeding the poor and making contributions to mosques.

It’s a time for Muslims to celebrate the end of fasting. This holiday is so important that many Muslims. take a day off from work or school to celebrate with their families. Everyone rises early for the prayer ceremony at their masjid, wearing new clothes. Afterwards, families visit each other and exchange good wishes. The handshakes and hugs after the prayer are a wonderful mark of love toward others. Eid gives everyone a feeling of brotherliness.

Decorating homes for Eid is fun, and Muslims even make Eid cards or gifts!

Children sometimes also remember that Eid is not about such gifts, it is really a time to remember Allah.