Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.
Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one's spiritual life.
Setting the Intention
When Ramadan begins, any person who intends to fast must openly or silently express to Allah the following:
"I intend to fast today for the sake of Allah. O Allah, make it easy for me and accept it from me."
When it is time to break the fast at sunset, the Muslim should say:
"O Allah, For Your Sake I fasted, in You I believe, in You I trust, and with the food You provide I break my fast."
Fasting at a Glance
1.5 billion Muslims of the world celebrate their holiest month of Ramadan every year. Ramadan is the 9th month in the lunar year. During this month, healthy Muslim adults observe Fasting during the daylight hours. Muslim Fasting is a total abstention from eating, drinking, and sexual relations from dawn to dusk for 29 or 30 days of the month of Ramadan. Also, avoiding immoral behavior and anger and showing compassion is part of the requirements of the fasting. The purpose of fasting is manifold. Allah (the God Almighty) mentioned in the Holy Book of the Muslims, Quran, that the fasting is prescribed for the believers as it was prescribed for the people before them, so that they may acquire self control and God-consciousness. Therefore, the purpose of the fasting is to develop God-consciousness, self-control, improvement of health by reducing or eliminating impurities from the body, and to become aware of the plight of the poor, hungry, and the sick. Ramadan is a month of spiritual consciousness and high sense of social responsibility. The fulfillment of one's obligations during the month is rewarded by 70 times. Fasting is one of the 5 pillars of Islam including Announcement of Faith, Salaat (praying 5 times a day), Zakaat (the right of the poor on the wealth of the financially able), Fasting during the month of Ramadan, and Hajj (once a life time pilgrimage to Kaaba).
It is an obligation on every adult and healthy Muslim to fast during the month of Ramadan. The month of Ramadan is also the month in which the Holy Quran was sent down from 7th level of heaven to the 1st level, from where it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in piecemeal basis over a period of 23 years. It is a very joyous occasion for the Muslims of the world. Muslims fast during the day and pray and read Quran during the part of the night. There is a special night called the Night of Power, which is mentioned in the Quran, as a night of mercy and light and worshiping during this night is better than 1,000 months. During this night Quran was sent to the 1st level of heaven. Allah (the God Almighty) send down special angels during this night to pray for the mercy of Allah (the God Almighty) and salvation for the believers.
Unlike common calendar, which is Solar based, Islamic calendar is Lunar based. It does not mean that Muslims worship moon. It is simply another way to count days of the month and the year. Like all Islamic months, Ramadan, the 9th lunar month, begins after sighting Crescent, and not the birth of the new moon. All healthy Muslim adult including homemakers, school-going kids around the age of 13, factory workers, businessmen and others among them will be fasting. Muslim get up very early to take their sahoor, a pre-dawn meal before starting their fast.
At the completion of month of Fasting, Muslims all over the world celebrate their holiday of Eidul-Fitr. It is a true thanksgiving for a Muslim believer for having the opportunity to obey Allah (the God Almighty) by observing Fasting. It is celebrated on the 1st day of 10th lunar month, Shawwaal. The holiday begins with Muslims putting on their best preferably new clothes and going to the Eid congregation. Eid congregations are very large gathering of Muslim men, women and children across the world. Afterwards, people greet each other with hugs and handshakes. The children receive gifts. After the congregation, Muslims visit each other at their homes and hold lunches or dinners for family and friends.