The world rotates around a variety of calendars: most people follow the Gregorian calendar which is used widely throughout the continents; the Chinese follow their own lunisolar calendar, while Jewish people follow a calendar that shares similarities with the Chinese one. Meanwhile, Muslims follow the Islamic calendar. Within this calendar, a variety of events occur, but the most important would have to be Ramadan, which takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Ramadan is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam: it constitutes that Muslims across the world fast during the day and break their fast at sunset. During Ramadan, Muslims attempt to learn more about their religion and the culture that it upholds. Many will attempt reading the entire Qur’an, the Islamic holy book, during the month of Ramadan and foregoing any bad habits that they have in order to honor their faith. Ramadan encourages self-discipline and generosity by modes of fasting and donation, while it also promotes cultural unity as various families will come together at the end of the day’s fast or “iftar” to share an evening meal.
The end of Ramadan is probably the most wondrous event within the entire Islamic calendar. It is called “Eid-ul-Fitr” which means the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. When the new moon for the next month is first seen, the festival begins. The primary purpose of the festival is to celebrate the end of fasting and to thank Allah for helping them get through it. People attend special services in Mosques and participate in parades on the streets. Many families will also hold parties within their household presenting a special celebratory meal during the daytime. Eid is a dazzling time because everyone dresses in spectacular outfits and give gifts to one another, including donating a set amount of money to charity to help the less fortunate.
This year the month of Ramadan begins on June 17 when your Muslim friends and neighbors will begin their fasting. As they practice restraint and self-control, remember that they are doing it to remind themselves of the suffering that many experience throughout the world and how fortunate they are in comparison. Once the month ends, however, it will be a time to celebrate their culture and how remarkable and considerate it is.
Ramadan is one of the most magnificent and widespread events to occur around the world. To all of those that are participating, good luck and Eid Mubarak!
For more information on Islam and Ramadan, visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/religion/islam/ramadan.shtml