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Ramadan - June 28, 2014
The ninth month in Arabian culture is called Ramadan. This was established long before Islam was a religion. Ramadan is also the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and, according to the Muslim religion it is the month of fasting. All those of the Muslim faith must refrain from drinking, eating, and having sexual relations from dawn until sunset during Ramadan.
Basically, the month and the religion are interchangeable as viewed by Muslims. Fasting is intended to teach patience, spirituality, and humility. During Ramadan, Muslims are expected to pray more than during the rest of the year. In Islam, refraining from evil and seeking to be more pure are what is required during Ramadan.
According to Islamic belief, Ramadan was the month when Muhammad received the first words of the Qur'an. The dates of Ramadan vary every year depending on the phases of the moon. The word itself has meanings of "scorched ground" and "shortness in rations." The Qur'an holds that fasting is obligatory by the faithful, which was taken from Yom Kippur as observed by the Jews.
The new moon is representative of the start of each month, so the beginning of Ramadan is easy to ascertain as to a day, but the exact timing within that day is a little trickier to determine. Disagreements come each year as to the start of Ramadan, and this is because Muslims are dispersed in so many different areas of the world.
Tradition holds that Ramadan begins when the moon is first visible to the naked eye. Obviously, this can be at different times based on where a person is geographically.
Many traditionalist Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. At that time, the family meets for a meal that begins with the eating of a date because it is believed that the Prophet Muhammad began his meals in that fashion. After the date and before eating the meal, prayers are said to thank Allah. The meal is generally a simple one consisting of vegetables and fruits.
This special meal called Iftar has changed in many cultures, and it is more often a feast that includes friends and families from the local communities. Sometimes the event is planned at the mosque or a large banquet hall, and there will probably be many such events beginning with the advent of Ramadan on Monday August 1, 2011.
In Muslim communities, most retail markets close during the evening prayers and the evening meal, but they reopen afterwards and remain so for much of the night. In Middle Eastern areas, the visiting with friends and family can continue for much of the night, making it difficult to conduct business as usual.
Because charity holds such importance in Islam, it is not unusual for people to give dates to others during Ramadan. Many restaurants offer a free Iftar during at least the first day of Ramadan.
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