A month to reflect, fast, and bond with family, community, and God.
And to be a little hungry.
Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims.
It’s the period in which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was visited by the archangel Gabriel and began to receive the Qur’an—the final scripture revealed by God. Believers commemorate this revelation through prayer, charity, and building a closer relationship with God.
Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard ˹to distinguish between right and wrong˺. So whoever is present this month, let them fast.
Of course, fasting is the hallmark of Ramadan. Participants do not eat, drink, smoke, or engage in intimacy from before sunrise to sunset. Each day of the month begins with a pre-dawn meal, suhoor, and ends with iftar, the fast-breaking meal. It’s also very common to perform taraweeh, communal prayers with family or at the mosque, at the close of each day, and to spend extra time in personal supplication throughout each night. During daylight hours, fasting folks go about their usual routines at work, school, and home. Be gentle, your Muslim coworkers and students are probably a bit tired!
While fasting can be a challenge, it’s also…
Emptying the stomach can really free up space for the soul. Each year when Ramadan comes along, Muslims pause to reflect on their habits and the state of their hearts.
The Qur’an says,
O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop God-consciousness.
With the goal of God-consciousness in mind, many use the month as a time to reconnect with the Divine through a focus on spiritual self-improvement. This can look like extra recitation of the Qur’an, more time spent in prayer, the abandonment of bad habits, or a renewed focus on volunteering to assist those in need.
Ramadan is also a time to bond with family, friends, and community. Muslims are encouraged to spend more time at the mosque, host and attend communal dinners (with their ever-present danger of eating too many samosas), visit extended family and friends, and celebrate together at the end of the month.
Muslims observe Ramadan worldwide
Longest fasting hours in Nuuk, Greenland
Shortest fasting hours in Christchurch, New Zealand
How long does the fast last? Is it 24 hours?
So then what about people who live in areas with really long or really short days?
Can Muslims who are fasting eat or drink anything at all? What about water?
But what if someone is sick or needs medications?
God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.
Ahhh, ok. Is anyone else exempt from fasting?
What about the opposite? Who’s allowed to fast? Can I join in as a non-Muslim if I want to support my Muslim friends?
Umm…fasting seems kind of intimidating. What if I just congratulate my friends and work colleagues on Ramadan—should I say Happy Ramadan? And can I give them a gift?
Not a bad idea. Are there any special foods that are eaten during Ramadan?
Anything else I can do for my Muslim friends of work colleagues? Should I avoid eating or drinking around them?
So…not to be rude, but this all seems really complicated. What’s the point? What are Muslims hoping to achieve by fasting?
Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop God-consciousness.