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When It Happens

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, which is based on the moon. The western dates of the holiday move up about 10 days every year. In 2002, Ramadan begins November 6 and ends December 5.


The Qur'an was first revealed to Muhammad during the month of Ramadan. The month is a special time of worship, Qur'an reading, charitable acts, and individual reflection and purification. Main Qur'anic Source "Ramadan is the month during which the Qur'an was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein" (2:185).

What's Prohibited

Eating and drinking from dawn to sunset
Sexual activity during those hours

Why the Fast

Among many reasons, Muslims fast to heighten spirituality and practice self-restraint, as the Qur'an states, "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may [learn] self-restraint" (2:183).

Who Should Fast

All Muslims who have reached puberty are required to fast. Exceptions include men and women who are too old to fast, those who are too ill, women in the advanced stages of pregnancy, and women who are menstruating.

Other Requirements

Reading the entire Qur'an during the month
Five daily prayers must be offered for that day's fast to have meaning
The recitation of the Taraweeh prayer, or Night prayer

Important Meals

Suhur, the meal before daybreak
Iftar, the meal after sunset, eaten as soon as possible after the sun sets

End of the Fast

Each day's fast is broken with water and dates before the prayers and Iftar, the evening meal.

The Night of Power

The night of the 27th day of Ramadan is known as Laylat Al Qadr, or the Night of Power. This night is commemorated as the night Mohammad received the first revelation of the Qur'an. The Qur'an calls this night "better than a thousand months." Muslims spend the night in prayer and devotion.

End of the Month

Muslims celebrate the end of the fast with the joyous festival of Eid ul-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast. They attend special congregational prayers in the morning and greet each other with "Eid Mubarak," or "Holiday Blessings."