Muslims around the world celebrate a religious holiday called “Ramadan” each year. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and the celebration lasts the entire month.

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, which means it’s based on the moon. The United States uses the Gregorian calendar (a solar calendar based on the sun), so the dates of Ramadan change each year.

Ramadan begins each year when the first sliver of the crescent moon (waxing crescent moon following a new moon) appears in the ninth month. In 2011, Ramadan will be celebrated from August 1 to 29.

One of the primary ways Muslims celebrate Ramadan is by fasting. Fasting means to abstain from food.

Muslims celebrating Ramadan only eat when it’s dark outside. From sunrise until sunset, they don’t eat or drink anything.

Fasting allows Muslims to focus on other things, such as their faith, prayer and doing good deeds for others. Fasting also teaches Muslims self-control, sacrifice and empathy for others less fortunate. Ramadan is usually marked by increased generosity and charity.

Muslims pray often during Ramadan. In addition to the five daily prayers that Muslims pray each day, they also recite a special Ramadan prayer — called the “Taraweeh Prayer” (or “Night Prayer”) — which is two to three times longer than their daily prayers.

At the end of the day, Muslims break their fast with more prayer and a special meal called the iftar. The iftar usually begins with the ritual eating of a date, which is a fruit the Prophet Muhammad is said to have eaten.

Traditionally, the evening meal is a special time to visit with family and friends. Some families also exchange gifts when they get together. In the morning, fasting begins again.

Why do Muslims celebrate Ramadan? The reason centers on the Laylat-al-Qadr (“Night of Power”). Muslims believe it was on this night that Allah (God) delivered the Quran (the Muslim holy book) to the Prophet Muhammad.

The Laylat-al-Qadr is the most holy night of the year. It occurs on an odd-numbered night during the last 10 days of Ramadan (either the 21, 23, 25, 27 or 29, depending on the year). Muslims believe it is on this night that Allah determines the course of the world for the year to come.

At the end of the month, Ramadan comes to a close with the feast of Eid-Ul-Fitr (“Feast of Fast Breaking”). Friends and families gather together for large meals. Many cities also have large celebrations.

Overall, Ramadan is a special time for reflection and prayer. Muslims focus on faith and strive for purity in all their thoughts and actions.

 

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  1. Hi Wonderopolis! I was thinking about the next wonder. I thought it could be about rapid paces because it can quickly leave. Though, it could completely compare to vanishing. Both gone and vanish could contribute in the same category. Well I guess I will check in tomorrow!

    • Good morning, Torey! We love it when Wonder Friends try to guess the next day’s Wonder from the clues! Were you surprised that Wonder #309 was about Erasers? Erasers make us think of all the great writing and learning that happens in school. Are you excited to be heading back to school this year? :-)

  2. Hi, may i just point out, being muslim and quite learned, that ‘laylat al qadr’ translates as ‘night of predestination (fate)’, not power as is the very common misconception. Anyway, great articles! :)

    • Thank you for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day® about Ramadan, Mirvad! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • How SUPER that you enjoy learning about the customs of others, too, Jeff! Keep up the great WONDERing and reading– so many great things to come from that! :)

  3. Wow that religion is tough. My religion is Buddhist and there are a lot of differences compared to my religion and theirs. Also it’s interesting that they have to wake up every 3-4 hours and can only eat during the night.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your WONDERful comment with us today, Duyen! We think it’s WONDERful that you’ve been learning about a religion that is different from your own. It’s great to hear that you’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences between Buddhists and Muslims– what they believe, how they celebrate their faith, and how they practice their religion. Thank you visiting us to Wonder, Duyen! You rock! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is Ramadan?
  • What is fasting?
  • Why do Muslims celebrate Ramadan?

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Try It Out

Even if you’re not Muslim, you can experience what it’s like to celebrate Ramadan. Pick a day and plan a special dinner for after sunset. If you can, try to fast during the day.

Ramadan tradition is to break the fast with dates, water and milk, but you can serve whatever your family likes to eat. Use candles and enjoy your time together as a family. Make it a special meal to remember.

Take some time to share with each other how you feel after a day of fasting. Was it difficult to fast? Could you do it each day for a whole month?

Talk about what’s important to you. Try to share something special about each family member that means a lot to you.

If you also want to decorate your house for Ramadan, how about making a special craft? Ramadan lanterns — called “Fanoos” — are a beautiful decoration that you can make out of simple construction paper. Learn how to make a Ramadan lantern.

 

Still Wondering

Visit National Geographic Xpeditions’ Culture Goggles: Same Holy Land, Different Holidays lesson to learn more about how a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim might view the Old City of Jerusalem in Israel in different ways.

 

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