The Islamic holy month of Ramadan has begun.
What is Ramadan?
Muslims – there are 1.6 billion in the world – believe Ramadan is the holiest month in the year , when the Qur’an, the holy book ofIslam, was revealed to the prophet Muhammad.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, or the Hijri calendar based on the lunar cycle, which began in AD622 whenMuhammad migrated from Mecca toMedina.
When is Ramadan?
Depending on the sighting of the crescent moon, or hilal, the month begins this year on the evening of the Wednesday 17 June,which means Muslims will begin their first day of fasting at dawn on Thursday 18 June.
The month of fasting will end on either Friday 17 July or Saturday 18 July, as there are either 29 or 30 days in a lunar month.
As Ramadan begins about 11 days earlier each year, it sometimes falls in winter months when the fasts are short, and in summer months when the fasts are long.
Why do Muslims fast?
During this month, observant Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. This is because fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. The other acts of worship are the shahadah, which is the declaration of faith; salat, the five daily prayers; zakat, or almsgiving; and the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Fasting in Ramadan is obligatory for Muslims, and in the Qur’an it states:
O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain Taqwa [God-consciousness]. – The Qur’an, Al-Baqarah:183