Ramadan: meaning, rules and period

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Martí Micolau

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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In the world there are about 1,6 billion Muslims following the Muslim religion based on 5 pillars: the testimony of faith, the five prayers a day, the almsgiving ritual, the pilgrimage to Mecca and the Ramadan.
The latter, with ancient roots and particular rites, it is the month in which the faithful fast, they dedicate themselves to prayer, meditation and self-discipline.
Here is all the information on Ramadan, its origins, the rules to be respected, the time of year in which it takes place and the curiosities to know.


  1. When does it start and how long it lasts
  2. The rules of Ramadan: what they are and who must respect them
  3. What is Ramadan: history and origins
  4. Curiosities about Ramadan
  5. User questions and comments

When does it start and how long it lasts

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the year in the Muslim lunar calendar which coincides with the time when Muhammad received the revelation of the Koran.
Since Muslims follow the lunar calendar in which the year lasts about 11 days less than the solar one and that the numbering starts from what for us coincides with 622 AD, the month of Ramadan does not always fall on the same month and day.

  • The sacred period lasts 29 or 30 days according to the observation of the growing moon.
  • It begins with the Hilal or new moon and the holiday begins with the morning prayer before dawn followed by a family breakfast and the recitation of a passage from the Koran.
  • Ramadan ends with the Feast of Rupture "ID al-Fitr" which coincides with the new phase of the moon. For two days the faithful gather to pray and celebrate with relatives and friends exchanging typical sweets and gifts as a sign of brotherhood.
    One of the most important moments of this day is the Zakat, or the obligation of alms for the most needy.
  • The most sacred night is the one called Night of Destiny "Laylat al-Qadr" which coincides with that of an odd day in the last decade of Ramadan. According to mythology, the Archangel Gabriel revealed the Koran to Mohammed that night.

The rules of Ramadan: what they are and who must respect them

Third pillar of Islam, Ramadan is mandatory for all healthy Muslims from puberty onwards and is based on some rules. These precepts teach the faithful to control their cravings and repress their instincts in order to learn to be master of themselves and get closer to Allah.

  • Fasting from sunrise to sunset; during Ramadan, the faithful have only two meals at specific times, the suhur before sunrise and the fitur after sunset.
  • Before the evening meal, the fast is broken with a date or a glass of water.
  • The faithful then must refrain from smoking and having sexual intercourse in the hours between sunrise and sunset.
  • During the sacred period, Muslims, in addition to the usual 5 daily prayers, must go to the mosque and recite the Taraweeh night prayer.
  • If for some reason one violates one of the rules in a conscious and conscious way, one has the obligation to act of charity towards the needy, or to continue abstinence from carnal prohibitions from dawn to dusk for another 60 days later.
  • You should also not lie, use foul language, and fight wars this month.

Exceptions: who can exempt from fasting

According to Islam some people may be exempt from following the fast and are:

  • seniors
  • children until puberty
  • sick people
  • pregnant women
  • breastfeeding women
  • people who make long journeys
  • who had health problems after starting fasting
  • women with periods or who have just given birth

The differences in the world

Depending on the latitude of the country where you live and the period in which Ramadan occurs, there may be substantial differences between a place and another regarding the time between sunrise and sunset.

Just think of those places where at certain times of the year the sun never sets or never rises. In these situations, the faithful can stick to the Mecca timetables to sanction the beginning and the end of the fast.

Another peculiarity concerns the different traditions found in foods that can be eaten after dark.
In Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco cous cous is usually prepared with only lamb and enriched with raisins.
In Syria and Jordan, on the other hand, "Katai" are eaten, which are sweets made with coconut, hazelnuts and sugar. Furthermore, in the Maghreb countries, licorice juice is drunk to raise blood pressure which often drops with fasting.

What is Ramadan: history and origins

According to the Koran, pre-Islamic peoples already followed fasting but the precept to follow this practice during Ramadan dates back to 624 AD, during the month of Sha'ban, 18 months after Hegira when Muhammad fled from the hostile tribes of Mecca towards the city of Medina.

The prophet had instituted fasting to remember all poor people who did not have to eat, in fact, works of charity towards the needy are required of all the faithful in this month.
Furthermore, tradition holds that in this period the doors of the Jannah (Heaven) are open and those of the Jahannum (Hellfire) are closed and therefore we must thank Allah.
According to historian Philip Jenkins, the month of fasting derives from the rigorous Lenten discipline of the Syrian Churches and would therefore support the hypothesis that the Koran has Syriac-Christian inspirations.
For Muslims anyway fasting is a way to learn self-discipline, patience, love for God and belonging to a community.

Curiosities about Ramadan

Beyond the rules there are also some curiosities that happen during the holy month of Islam, here are the most significant:

  1. During Ramadan in Muslim-majority countries, shop windows are embellished with lanterns and lights and only display elegant goods.
  2. In this month many collections of food, money and clothes are made to donate to the poorest.
  3. During Ramadan, women can neither wear makeup during the day nor apply nail polish and must always wear the Dar'ra, the kaftan.
  4. On the fifteenth day of the month, the children, dressed up, go from house to house to collect sweets; this custom is called Gergaian.
  5. A few minutes before sunset on the street it is easy to meet volunteers who distribute small boxes containing dates, water or something sweet because you don't have to wait too long to eat at the end of the fast.

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