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Ramadan (also transliterated Ramazan, Ramzan, Ramadhan, or Ramathan) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in the hadiths.
The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, which means scorching heat or dryness. Fasting is fardh (obligatory) for adult Muslims, except those who are suffering from an illness, travelling, are elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or going through menstrual bleeding. Fasting the month of Ramadan was made obligatory (wājib) during the month of Sha'aban, in the second year after the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina. Fatwas have been issued declaring that Muslims who live in regions with natural phenomenon such as the midnight sun or polar night should follow the timetable of Mecca.
While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations with one's spouse. Muslims are also instructed to refrain from sinful behavior that may negate the reward of fasting, such as false speech (insulting, backbiting, cursing, lying, etc.) and fighting. Food and drink is served daily, before dawn and after sunset. Spiritual rewards (thawab) for fasting are also believed to be multiplied within the month of Ramadan. Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes the increased offering of salat (prayers) and recitation of the Quran.
Hilāl (the crescent) is typically a day (or more) after the astronomical new moon. Since the new moon marks the beginning of the new month, Muslims can usually safely estimate the beginning of Ramadan. However, to many Muslims, this is not in accordance with authenticated Hadiths stating that visual confirmation per region is recommended. The consistent variations of a day have existed since the time of Muhammad.
Night of Power.
Laylat al-Qadr, which in Arabic means "the night of power" or "the night of decree", is considered the holiest night of the year. This is the night in which Muslims believe the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to Muhammad stating that this night was "better than one thousand months [of proper worship], as stated in Chapter 97:3 of the Qu'ran. Also, generally, Laylat al-Qadr is believed to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during the last ten days of Ramadan, i.e., the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th. The Dawoodi Bohra Community believe that the 23rd night is laylat al Qadr.
The holiday of Eid al-Fitr (Arabic:عيد الفطر) marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions. This first day of Shawwal is called Eid al-Fitr. Eid al-Fitr may also be a reference towards the festive nature of having endured the month of fasting successfully and returning to the more natural disposition (fitra) of being able to eat, drink and resume intimacy with spouses during the day.
The predominant practice during Ramadan is fasting from dawn to sunset. The pre-dawn meal before the fast is called the suhur, while the meal at sunset that breaks the fast is the iftar. Considering the high diversity of the global Muslim population, it is impossible to describe typical suhur or iftar meals. Muslims also engage in increased prayer and charity during Ramadan. Ramadan is also a month where Muslims try to practice increased self-discipline. This is motivated by the Hadith, especially in Al-Bukhari and Muslim, that "When Ramadan arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up and devils are put in chains."
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