O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may become righteous (pious) - [Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2:183]
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Insh'Allah, Ramadan starts on Sunday, 29 June 2014 / 1 Ramadan 1435. The timer is counting down to 2:49 am BST / 1:49 am GMT(UTC), the start of dawn on 1 Ramadan 1435. The calculation is based on the Unified Prayer Timetable For London. Dates and times are subject to change and depend upon the sighting of the moon.
Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. The Qur'an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) during this month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world fast during the hours of daylight, refraining from consuming food and drink, smoking and conjugal sexual relations from dawn to sunset. The first and last days of fasting are determined by the sighting of the crescent new moon and therefore, the start of Ramadan may be different from region to region, but only by one day.
Fasting is one of the Pillars of Islam (Sawm) and is compulsory on every able-bodied Muslim who has reached puberty. Those travelling and the sick can defer their fast and make up for it later. Women are exempt from fasting during menstruation, pregnancy, and breast-feeding but are also required to make up for their missed fasts. Along with fasting, the Holy month of Ramadan is a time of increased worship and devotion to Allah, and is a good time for self-improvement and reflection.
An additional prayer, Tarawih, takes place during Ramadan. It is performed after the Isha prayer, in congregation, and comprises either 8 or 20 rakahs, or units of prayer. The aim of Tarawih is recite the entire Qur’an at least once during the Holy month.
In accordance with the example set by Muhammad (pbuh) many Muslims choose the Holy month of Ramadan to fulfil the other Pillar of Islam, Zakat (Charity). Many will choose Ramadan to give all of the Zakat for which they are obligated to give for that year.
The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful. [Qur'an 2:185]
Fasting is one of the greatest blessings Allah has bestowed on us. Fasting teaches Muslims self-discipline, self-restraint, sacrifice and generosity. It encourages us to remember the poor and to feel the pangs of hunger. Ramadan is a time to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and re-focus our energies on the worship of Allah, making us more aware of Him and his countless blessings during times of ease. Above all, Ramadan helps us to become spiritually stronger by this self-evaluation, purifying the mind, body and spirit which leads to greater clarity, sensitivity and health.
Muslims believe that good deeds bring a greater reward during Ramadan than at any other time of year. Depending on the intention, Ramadan can be used as a catapult to a new life for the rest of the year. Fasting is also scientifically documented as being effective in helping to improve general health and longevity.
Ramadan confirms a Muslim’s belief in and love for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through fasting in the manner prescribed by him.
The Qur'an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) during the month of Ramadan, most likely on one of the last ten odd-dated nights of the month. The night that the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) is referred to as "Lailat ul Qadr" ("the night of power"). To pray on this one night is better than a thousand months of worship. [Qur'an 97:3]
Ramadan is a month of heightened devotion and is often called the "month of the Qur'an". An additional prayer, Tarawih, takes place during Ramadan and is performed in mosques after the Isha prayer, and comprises of either 8 or 20 rakahs. The aim of Tarawih is to recite the entire Qur’an at least once during the Holy month of Ramadan, with many mosques reciting one-thirtieth of the Qur'an each night. Tarawih can also be performed in one’s home.
For the last ten days of Ramadan, some Muslims retreat to mosques to perform Itikaf, a period of intense reflection and devotion, seeking guidance and forgiveness, and reading the Qur'an. Ramadan is an excellent opportunity to re-establish ones relationship with the Qur'an and aim to get closer to its blessed guidance.
To the non-Muslim, Ramadan may seem like a very long, hard month of suffering. Quite the contrary; it is an exciting and joyous time. There is a certain buzz in mosques and in homes in the lead-up to Ramadan, and most Muslims generally look forward to it with excitement and longing. It is a joyous family and community time and Muslims appreciate the significance of the month, as it brings with it a renewal of existing relationships and a cultivation of new ones.
Meal-times seem to take on a bond-forming and renewal aspect, something that does not quite have the same meaning or significance during the rest of the year. It is often said that only those who fast in Ramadan can truly know and appreciate the beauty and joy of breaking fast with loved ones.
Zakat al-Fitr (also known as "Sadaqah al-Fitr") is an obligatory charity given to the poor at the end of Ramadan, payable before the Eid Salat. It is paid by every adult Muslim on behalf of themselves and their dependents. [Bukhari vol. 2, Book 25, Number 579] [Muslim Book 005, Number 2159]. In today's monetary terms, this equates to roughly £5 / $6 per person.
In accordance with the example set by Muhammad (pbuh) many Muslims choose the Holy month of Ramadan to fulfil the other Pillar of Islam, Zakat (Charity). Many will choose Ramadan to give all of the Zakat which they are obligated to give for that year. The literal translation of the Arabic word is "to purify", "to clense". Therefore, paying Zakat on wealth purifies and cleanses the remainder, reminding us that all our possessions belong to Allah. The example of the Prophet (pbuh) being charitable in Ramadan is from this Hadith:
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The Prophet was the most generous amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel visited him, and Gabriel used to meet him on every night of Ramadan till the end of the month. The Prophet used to recite the Holy Qur'an to Gabriel, and when Gabriel met him, he used to be more generous than a fast wind (which causes rain and welfare). [Bukhari vol. 3, Book 31, Number 126]
Ramadan is a time for compassion and solidarity with others, and a time to empathise with the poor. Muslims are urged to be more charitable during Ramadan and are required to give Sadaqah al-Fitr at the end of fasting.
The end of Ramadan is marked by a celebration called Eid-ul-Fitr. Eid is always on the first day of the month of Shawwal. The festival begins when the new moon is sighted and this signifies the end of fasting. Muslims are not allowed to fast on this day. The day consists of Eid Salat at the mosque followed by a family day with celebratory meals.
On this day, Muslims all over the world thank Allah for the gift of Ramadan, in which they practised self-control from dawn to sunset. Muslims generally celebrate Eid by wearing their finest clothes, giving gifts to children and spending time with their families and friends. In Muslim countries, Eid ul-Fitr is a public holiday. As shown above, Sadaqah al-Fitr is paid in charity at the end of Ramadan, before the Eid Salat.