What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar.
TIt is considered one of the holiest months for Muslims and is marked by a period of fasting, considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
The Five Pillars are principles which Muslims believe are compulsory acts ordered by God: they are: (1) declaration of faith, (2) prayer, (3) Fasting in Ramadan (4) charity and (5) making the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. During Ramadan, Muslims are also encouraged to give to charity, strengthen their relationship with God, and show kindness and patience. In addition to the 5 daily obligatory prayers, many Muslims perform additional prayers during Ramadan because it is believed that all good deeds are rewarded more during Ramadan.
If you want to wish someone well, you can say "Ramadan Mubarak", which means
"Blessed Ramadan", or "Ramadan Kareem", which translates as "Generous Ramadan".
When is Ramadan?
Ramadan falls on a different date every year, due to the cycles of the moon.
In 2023, Ramadan will start on the evening of Wednesday 22 March (with the first day
of fasting on March 23) and will finish on the evening of Thursday 20 April (with the
first day of Eid al Fitr on April 21.
What is Eid al-Fitr?
Eid takes place at the end of Ramadan. The name "Eid al-Fitr" translates as "the festival
of the breaking of the fast". Like the beginning of Ramadan, Eid begins with the first
sighting of the new moon.
How does fasting work?
While fasting, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset for
the month of Ramadan, which is either 29 or 30 days – depending on lunar calculations.
All Muslims are required to fast during this month, although there are special
exceptions for those who are ill, pregnant, or nursing, traveling, and other reasons as
well as exceptions for young children and the elderly.
The practice of fasting can serve several spiritual and social purposes: to remind one of
the human frailty and dependence on God for sustenance, to understand what it feels
like to be hungry and thirsty to feel compassion for (and a duty to help) the poor and
needy, and to reduce the distractions in life to focus one’s relationship more clearly with
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating any food, or drinking any liquids from
dawn to sunset. That includes taking medication, chewing gum, etc. as this would
invalidate the fast. To make up for missed days, Muslims may either fast later in the year
(either all at once or a day here and there) or provide a meal to a needy person for each
Muslims are also encouraged to curb negative thoughts and emotions like jealousy and
anger, as well as swearing, complaining, and gossiping, during the month. Some people
may also choose to give up or limit activities like listening to music and watching
television, often in favor of listening to recitations of the Quran.
How to support a friend or colleague during Ramadan?
1. Be flexible! If you usually go out to lunch with your friend every Saturday, be
willing to skip it during Ramadan or better yet, make it a dinner or an Iftar (Iftar
is the meal that Muslims break their fast on at sunset).
2. Be understanding! If you’re planning a social event, such as a picnic, try to choose a date that doesn’t conflict with Ramadan or Eid.
3. Ask questions! If you don’t understand why your friend/colleague is doing
something, ask them! It’s always a safer bet to ask a question rather than assume
that may or may not be correct.
4. Don’t feel bad for the one who is fasting! Comments like: “I’m so sorry you have
to do this!” Or “You poor thing!” may be misinterpreted. Muslims fast because
they believe in what they are doing. While fasting can be a difficult struggle, it is
not impossible or unhealthy and has been done in varying degrees for centuries.
5. Wish your friends/colleagues a Happy Ramadan! Saying “Ramadan Kareem” or
“Ramadan Mubarak are always appreciated!