Origin of Ramadan
The word Ramadan is derived from Arabic root R-M-D which means intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of rations. 'Hilal' is a day after the astronomical new moon. The new moon indicates the beginning of the new month; Muslims can safely estimate the beginning of this holy month. Ramadan is a time of pious reflection and worship. Muslims avoid obscene, irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual intercourse among couples is allowed after one has ended the fast.
During fasting eating and drinking and resistance of all temptations is persuaded. There should be purity on both thoughts and action. It is believed that the act of fasting redirects the heart away from worldly activities. Fasting helps to cleanse the inner soul. It also teaches to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate. When one reaches puberty, fasting begins. The elderly, constantly and mentally ill are exempted from fasting. Pregnant woman are also exempted from fasting.
Muslims are also encouraged to read entire Quran. The entire Quran is completed at the end of the month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims should slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment. As it is a festival of giving and sharing they prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends. These are also offered to the poor and the needy.
Iftar is a social gathering that involves preparation of special foods to invited guests. At sunset, the family gather and break the fast and this meal is known as Iftar. The meal starts with the eating of three dates. Thereafter takes place the Maghrib prayer, which is the fourth of the five daily prayers.
Charity is important during Ramadan. The Muslims spend more in charity and many pay their 'zakat' during Ramadan, to receive the blessings. It is believed that if a person helps a fasting person to break their fast, then they receive a reward for that fast.
Laylat al-Qadr is referred to as 'the night of decree or measures'. It is considered as the most holy night of the year. Muslims believe that Laylat al-Qadr is the night in which the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Id Ul Fitr marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month after another new moon has been seen. Id ul Fitr means the back to the fitrah.
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