What is Ramadan?
Ramadan marks the month when the Quran is said to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad by God, and is marked by a month-long fast.
Muslims are required to spend a period of 30 days abstaining from food and drink, including water, during daylight hours, as a means of celebrating and reflecting on their faith.
It is one of the five pillars of Islam – the fundamental rules that all Muslims follow – along with the Shahadah (declaration of faith), Salat (prayer), Zakat (charity) and the Hajj pilgrimage.
During Ramadan, there is an increased offering of the Salat, with Muslims giving thanks to Allah, while the fasting ritual allows them to understand the suffering of others. Those observing the fast are encouraged to read the Quran and the holy text is recited at the Tarawih, special nightly prayers that are held throughout the month.
When is Ramadan in 2020?
This year, Ramadan will begin on the evening of Thursday 23 April 2020, and will end on the evening of Saturday 23 May.
The Islamic calendar is based on the cycle of the moon, meaning the date Ramadan falls on varies from year to year.
The Islamic calendar
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and lasts between 29 and 30 days, based on the lunar calendar.
Muslims holidays shift slightly every year due to their observance of the lunar calendar – which differs in length to the Gregorian calendar that is used worldwide – meaning celebrations fall around 11 days earlier each year. The timing of holidays and celebrations depends on the sighting of the moon’s crescent, following a new moon.
And, since the visibility of the moon is dependant on a number of factors (including clear skies) the exact date of celebrations in the Muslim calendar can not always be predicted with certainty.
Who takes part in fasting?
All Muslims who have reached puberty are expected to fast during Ramadan, although there are some exceptions, including women who are menstruating or pregnant, and those suffering from illness.
The strict rules mean food and drink, including water, are not allowed during daylight hours for the entire month, while smoking, sex and masturbation are also prohibited.
The fast begins just before dawn, when a light meal called ‘suhoor’ is permitted to be consumed. At sunset, a prayer known as ‘Adhan’ signifies the end of the fast, when worshippers traditionally eat dates with juice, milk or water.
To break the fast fully at the end of the month, families usually come together to enjoy the meal of Iftar.
What happens after Ramadan?
After Ramadan comes to an end, Muslims observe Eid al-Fitr.
This celebration is marked with lights, decorations and gifts, with worshippers often dressing up and decorating their homes.
This year, Eid al-Fitr will begin on the evening of Saturday 23 May and end on the evening of Sunday 24 May.