The other day I was researching about the Bosniak population, who are primarily Muslim (40%), and I can across the word "Ramadan". Being a devoted Catholic who is not very familiar with other religions, I was unaware of what this word meant. That's when I started reading about Ramadan, which happens to be a very important Muslim religious holiday. I found the holiday to be very facinating and below I have included some interesting facts on it:
It occurs during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on the moon instead of the sun. Thus, it moves back approximately 11 days every year. This year, 2009, it will be from Friday, August 21st- Sat September 19th.
People who participate in this holiday must fast for an entire month. This includes eating or drinking anything from sunrise to sunset (until after their 4th prayer). This is a sign of sacrificing for God. It is a time for deepening their faith and spirituality, i.e., praying and contemplating life decisions and what truly matters more frequently. It puts an emphasis on asking for forgiveness of large sins, restraining from everyday evils, and doing good deeds. It also encourages people to increase their " patience, sacrifice and humility". "Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. In the evening following the iftar it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning."
The major focus is religion. In addition to their usual five daily prayer, Muslims participating in Ramadan spend several hours praying and studying the Quran in their mosques. They usually recite a prayer called Taraweeh prayer (Night Prayer), which is around 2-3 times longer than the daily prayer. Many pray throughout the whole night.
The 27th evening is the most important time of Ramadan. It is called Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power). It is believed to be the evening when the Holy Quran decended from heaven to reveal to Muhammad that during this evening God will decide the fate of the world for the upcoming year.
The end of this holiday is a three-day celebration called Id-al-Fitr(the Feast of Fast Breaking). It is on the first day of the next lunar month called Shawwal. People collectively pray with their families and friends, and exchange gifts. Some cities even have fairs to celebrate the end of the religious holiday.