What makes Ramadan a blessed month? No, it's not fasting!
Millions of Muslims around the world on Monday marked the start of the holy month of Ramadan or Ramazan, a time marked by intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and voluntary charity.
Ramadan gets the status of being a holy month as revelation of the Quran began in this month. The Quran begins the description of this blessed month with: "The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it.." (Quran 2:183)
The night in which the Quran began to be revealed, in parts and pieces to the Prophet Muhammad, is referred in the Quran as 'Laylat al-Qadr' the blessed night or the night of power.
"We have indeed revealed this (Quran) in the Night of Power." (Quran 97:1)
To mark the significance of this momentous occasion – the revelation of the Quran– the faithful spend the month of Ramadan in mosques for evening prayers known as "taraweeh," while free time during the day is often spent reading the Quran and listening to religious lectures and spiritual reflection.
According to Islamic belief, the Quran was revealed over a period of twenty three years to the Prophet Muhammad and is the first source of Islam and the speech of God
Each day for the month of Ramadan, Muslims, who are physically able, abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. Even a sip of water, coffee or a cigarette can invalidate one's fast. There are exceptions to fasting for children, the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, and people travelling.
Many break their fast as the Prophet Muhammad did around 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset followed by prayer. It is common for Muslims to break their fast with family and friends and charities organize free meals for the public at mosques and other public spaces.
The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. It focuses on enabeling a person to live the principle of self control and self discipline.
"O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for people before you so that you will (learn how to) attain Taqwa (righteousness)" (Quran, 2:183)
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity and performing the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims throughout the world observe a joyous celebration called Eid al-Fitr.
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