We are in the middle of the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan. If you are not observing, you may hear Muslim friends talking about fasting or perhaps planning to give back at a charity event. In our June issue, we highlighted the history and debate over the crescent moon, which is often associated with the month-long practice. This useful guide can help you learn more about Ramadan and how you can observe the spirit of the month regardless of your beliefs.
Date: Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar year, which is determined by the lunar cycle. It begins when the crescent moon is seen and lasts 29-30 days. This year it runs from the evening of June 5 through the evening of July 5.
Reason For the Season: Ramadan is observed to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.
Prayers: Many Muslims say extra prayers known as Tarawih at night during the month of Ramadan. Though not required, they are encouraged to recite a section of the Quran each night.
Fasting: The word Ramadan is derived from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, which means scorching heat or dryness. All adult Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset during the month, except for those who are ill, traveling, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or menstruating. They also refrain from negative behaviors such as insulting, cursing, lying and fighting.
Food: Before dawn, Muslims will have a pre-fast meal known as the suhur. Iftar is the meal to break that fast. After sunset, people enjoy small appetizers like dates and dried apricots before evening prayer. Then a large, buffet-style meal is served. In the Middle East, typical entrees include lamb kebabs with grilled veggies and roasted chicken with chickpea-studded rice pilaf. Rich, tasty treats like kunafeh, a cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, are served for dessert. Water tends to be the drink of choice but juice, milk and soft drinks are typically available as well.
Decor: In some countries, lights and lanterns are hung along public squares and city streets. Homes, shops and offices are often decorated with stars, crescents, lights and lanterns.
Greetings: Muslims can be heard exchanging well wishes throughout the month, such as “Ramadan mubarak” (Blessed Ramadan), “Iftar shahy” (Have a good iftar) and “Kil aam wa inta fee kheir” (May each year pass and you be well).
Related Holidays: Eid al-Fitr, also known as the “festival of the breaking of the fast,” occurs immediately after Ramadan. It is a three-day celebratory period where Muslims congratulate themselves for their month long fast and give thanks to God through prayer.
Get Involved: Consider giving time or money to a local charity. Monitor your words and thoughts—take a deep breath before you let a co-worker have it for an honest mistake. Though you may not wish to fast for the whole month, consider joining in for a day or two if you are able, and exchange Ramadan greetings with Muslim friends or colleagues.