Ramadan is a very significant month in the Islamic calendar. It is a call to Muslims to start the month-long period of fasting and prayers, and many travel to Mecca to pray to their God Allah. This year, on July 6, Muslims around the world broke their month-long fast of Ramadan.
What Is Ramadan?
"Ramadan" comes from the Arabic root word rmd which means "scorching heat" and marks the ninth month of the Lunar calendar year.
During this month in 610 AD, Muhammad, a caravan trader, set out on a journey across the hot deserts of Mecca (in Saudi Arabia). People believe, that this was when the mighty god, Allah, spoke to Muhammad, through his Archangel Gabriel. Gabriel declared that Muhammad was a messenger of Allah, and began unveiling some of the most important scriptures of the Qur’an to him. In many mosques, Muslims read verses from the Qur’an this month, which they finish by the end of Ramadan.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, the other pillars being confession in faith, five daily prayers, Zakah (almsgiving), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). People believe that fasting during Ramadan brings Muslims closer to Allah, and helps them understand the sufferings of the poor.
On Ramadan mornings, people eat a light meal before dawn, called Suhoor. They do not eat or drink for the rest of the day. They break their fast with a light evening meal called Iftar. Then they go to the mosque for an evening prayer, and then a night prayer.
Ending a Fast... Beginning a Feast
When the new moon comes up in the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, the fasting ends, and a big night of feasting begins. On July 6, Muslims will celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitr or "breaking of the fast" by dressing in their finest clothes, gathering together with friends and family and exchanging gifts. In some countries such as Indonesia, Muslims also visit graves of loved ones.
Eid feasts vary from country to country. Delicacies such as a rice dish with either lamb or beef, and breaded meat or vegetables on skewers are usually served with minted yogurt and kohlrabi-carrot salad. Desserts may be date-filled pastries, Jalebi, an orange sweet oozing with sugar syrup, or vermicili noodles sweetened with milk and sugar.
Families also donate foods like rice, barley, and dates to local charities, to assure that everyone gets special holiday food, and those less fortunate can have a happy Eid-Ul-Fitr as well. The act of donating is known as Sadaquah-Al-Fitr (charity of fast breaking).
As you can see, Ramadan is a special month for Muslims - one that begins with a fast, and ends with a feast!!
Courtesy: BBC, Infoplease, Islam.about.com