Ramadhan is a special month in the Islamic calendar. During this month the Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours (called fasting [sawm]) and they also seek to improve themselves by sinning less and praying more.
Ramadhan is the name of the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and it is a holy month best known as the month of fasting, sawm, and the month in which the Qur'an was revealed. This year the lunar month of Ramadhan begins around Saturday 21 July 2012 and ends a month later around Saturday 18 August 2012. The end of the holy month of Ramadhan is marked by a celebration known as Eid al-Fitr.
"The Holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said:
O' People! Surely, the month of God has approached you. The month which, in the eyes of Allah, is the most virtuous of months. Its days are the best of days and its nights, the best of the nights and its moments, the best of moments."
The holy month of Ramadhan is often used as a month in which the believer renews and increases their spiritual connection with God by praying more recommended prayers, reciting more verses of the Qur'an, giving more charity and refraining from doing sins and seeking repentance for past sins. But the month of Ramadhan is different from the other holy months because it is a month where fasting is a requirement.
"O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint (taqwa)" [The Qur'an 2:183]
Fasting is refraining from food, drink and sexual activity during day-light hours, from dawn till dusk. Fasting during this month is mandatory for adults but not for youngsters, the aged, the sick, the frail, people who are travelling, women who are pregnant, nursing their newborn child or in their menses. The purpose of fasting is not hardship but spiritual development, teaching perseverance, self-control and self-discipline. Not observing the fast or intentionally breaking the fast before sun-down is considered a big sin.
Each day during the month of Ramadhan, when the sun goes down, a Muslim can then stop fasting. This is often termed "breaking the fast" or iftar in Arabic. Muslims often visit family and friends during the month but they also try to attend their local mosque which serves a meal (futoor) as part of its nightly program, which often includes recitation from the holy Qur'an, mandatory prayers (maghrib and 'ishaa) that are recited after sun-down, the main meal, maybe a lecture or lessons in the rules of Islam, maybe a supplication or two and recommended prayers.
After finishing for the night, people go home and have some food and drink water - observe the suhoor - during the night before the sun comes up again, in preparation for the next day of fasting. This is highly recommended and it makes fasting easier.
The month of Ramadhan is the most popular month of the year and Muslims look forward to it as it brings together family, friends and the community and they can worship and observe the tenants of their religion together. Furthermore, this month God increases the virtues (thawab) of acts of worship and good deeds so a good deed done in this month has greater weight than the same one done in other months and Muslims are advised to take this opportunity and blessing.
"The Holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said:
This month of yours (Ramadhan) is unlike the other months. Surely, when it approaches you (begins), it does so with blessings and mercy and when it turns away from you (ends), it does so with forgiveness of sins. This is a month in which good deeds are multiplied and acts of goodness are accepted."
Muslims use this month as a month to change and improve themselves in, turn over a new leaf and become better Muslims and better people for the rest of the year and the rest of their lives. Each Ramadhan is taken as an opportunity to increase one's spiritual level with them aim of self purification and the final goal of attaining a high station in heaven in the hereafter.