One the most important and respected dates for Muslim communities around the world is Ramadan, a time of fasting, prayer, reflection and purification.
The word, which comes from Arabic, means “to burn” and refers to the forgiveness of sins during this period.
It is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a commemoration of Allah’s revelation of the first verses of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad.
In addition to the traditional fasting, during Ramadan the faithful draw closer than ever to their God and try to purify their souls through prayers, sacrifices and discipline.
It has no fixed dates and is celebrated during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which depends on the lunar cycle.
What is Ramadan and When is it Celebrated?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is marked by Muslims around the world fasting for 30 days.
The Islamic calendar is based on lunar cycles, unlike our Gregorian calendar, so the exact dates of Ramadan change every year.
Based on astronomical calculations, Ramadan 2023 would start on Thursday 23 March and end on 21 April 2023.
Throughout the Ramadan period, adult Muslims of able body and mind will fast for 30 days between dusk and dawn and break their fast with a traditional meal called ‘Iftar’.
This fast includes abstaining from eating or drinking anything, and sexual intimacy until sunset.
Many observers also choose to stay away from smoking, taking medicine and chewing gum during this time window.
These fasting periods can range from 11-16 hours per day. Before fasting each day, Muslims will begin with a pre-fast meal called ‘suhur’, and then begin the ‘fajr’, the first prayer of the day.
At dusk, Muslims celebrate with the meal known as the ‘iftar’, which means “breaking the fast”, often shared with family and friends.
Muslims who are of good mental health and have reached the age of puberty are expected to fast.
Those who are acutely or chronically ill, diabetic, travelling, menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding do not have to fast, as well as children who haven’t hit puberty yet and the elderly.