Laylat al-Qadr, considered the most holy night of the year, is the night in which the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammed. Muslims believe it to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during the last 10 days of Ramadan, either the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th (in Sunni thought) or the 19th, 21st or 23rd (in Shi'a thought). Ramadan ends with Eid ul-Fitr, with much celebration and feasts. During the month following Ramadan, called Shawwal, Muslims are encouraged to fast for a further six days, known as as-Sitta al-Bayḍ, or "the white six."
Ramadan is a time of reflecting and worshiping God. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual thoughts and activities during fasting hours are also forbidden. Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Properly observing the fast is supposed to induce a comfortable feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and sympathy for those who are less fortunate. It is also intended to make Muslims more generous and charitable. A certain level of self-control can be lost by those who suffer from eating disorders.
The elderly, the chronically ill and the insane are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed one poor person each day in place of their missed fasting. Also exempt are pregnant women, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns, all of whom must make up the days they miss at a later date. While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavor to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life. Lastly, those traveling are exempt, but must make up the days they miss. More specifically, Iran's Shiites define those who travel more than 14 miles in a day as exempt.
In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur'an.
Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Qur'an by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, which are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (juz, which is 1/30 of the Qur'an) is recited. Therefore the entire Qur'an would be completed at the end of the month.Tarawih is an Arabic phrase referring to those extra prayers. This prayer is performed after prayer salah of the night Isha'a, but before the witr rakat. Tarawih are not practiced by Shī‘ah Muslims.
Muslims also pay Zakat during the month. It is only applicable if one can afford it. For those who qualify to pay Zakat, as per the Islamic Nisab (that is those whose wealth exceeds their necessities), they pay it from the leftover of their wealth earned in that Islamic calendar year. Although Zakat can be paid any time of the year, it has to be calculated on a year to year basis, and many Muslims use Ramadan as the month for calculation and disbursement.
Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment, establishing a link between themselves and God through prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others.
Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it; this can involve buying new clothes, shoes and other items of need. There is also a social aspect involved – the preparing of special foods and inviting people for the Iftar meal (the meal to break the fast).
In many Muslim and non-Muslim countries with large Muslim populations, markets close down in the evening to enable people to perform prayers and consume the Iftar meal – these markets then re-open and stay open for a good part of the night. Muslims can be seen shopping, eating, spending time with their friends and family during the evening hours. During the whole Ramadan season (about 29 to 30 days), Muslims will not eat or drink from the brink of dawn (about 1 hour and 20 minutes before sunrise) until sunset.
Allah says in what can be translated as:
And in Surat ad-Dukhan:
Muslims believe that it was the night in which the Qur'an was revealed from God to Samaa Adunya (the sky of the world we live in). The Qur'an was revealed over many years to the Prophet. Muslims believe that any acts of worship undertaken on this night are rewarded in multiple thousands in comparison to the same act of worship done on any other day. There are two schools of thought on date of this event. Some Muslims are of the opinion that it lands on the 27th night of Ramadan while others believe that it may be any one of the last odd-numbered nights.
The Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (عيد الفطر) marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted. The Eid falls after 29 or 30 days of fasting, as per the lunar sighting. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fast; a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor (‘Zakat al-Fitr’), everyone puts on their best, usually new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends. The prayer is two rakaahs only, and it is an optional prayer as opposed to the compulsory five daily prayers.
Muslims are encouraged to fast six days in Shawwal, the month following Ramadan that begins after Eid ul-Fitr; these days need not be consecutive. According to hadith, one who fasts the month of Ramadan and six days during Shawwal will be rewarded as though he had fasted the entire year.
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