What Is Ramadan in Islam

What is Ramadan 2024 and when is it? – Muslim and Non-Muslim Guide

Ramadan is considered one of the holiest months of the year for Muslims. It is the ninth month

Ramadan is considered one of the holiest months of the year for Muslims. Ramadan’s 2024 start date is expected to begin on 11 or 12 March according to your local place.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar year calendar. In Ramadan, Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Qur’an and fast from food and drink during the sunlit hours as a means of drawing closer to God and cultivating self-control and gratitude. 

When do Muslims fast?

Muslims fast in Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is lunar based. The month starts with the sighting of the new cycle of the moon and ends with the sighting of the next cycle. Usually that’s (29 ~30) days. 

Because it’s lunar based, Ramadan season can come at any season (Winter, Summer, Fall or Spring) –making the experience unique each year. For more about fasting, read:

Fasting in Islam

Benefits of Ramadan Fasting

Breaking fast in Ramadan

When does fasting start?

Fasting starts with the break of dawn, and is broken with the sunset. 

It starts with Athan (Call to prayer) of Al-Fajr prayer and ends with Athan (Call to prayer) of Al-Magrib. This links Fasting with Prayer, so that worshipping God is done contentiously.
Start the fast then go pray, break your fast and go pray!

Those two timings mark the transition between day and night, which are major signs of Allah (God) All-mighty. The two prayers timed by those timings, help to remind of those two great miracles (I.e: day and night) as well as glorify their Creator and the one who controls them. 

Fasting is similar in that aspect–in reminding and glorifying God for the blessings of day & night.

What do Muslims do during Ramadan ?

Muslims perform fasting (abstaining from eating, drinking and having sexual relations during daylight hours; from dawn to dusk) as a religious obligation. For more, read: History of Ramadan

Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan ?

Muslims fast for the following:

1. Fasting is a mean of worship (the main reason):

Fasting is more than just abstinence; it is a mean of worship that helps Muslims feel a closer and deeper connection with Allah (SWT). Fasting allows each individual to understand what it means to go without and to learn patience with oneself and those around them, as well as compassion for those less fortunate.

2. Fasting cultivates piety:

Also, fasting cultivates self-discipline as well as piety and God-consciousness. While fasting may seem like doing nothing, restricting ourselves willingly is an intentional conscious act, that constantly requires willpower, and what fuels that during fasting is remembering that fasting is for Allah, we are doing this for Him and thus we keep Him in heart nearly all day long! 

when Allah Almighty sets the reason for prescribing fasting in Ramadan, He says: 

 “يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيۡكُمُ ٱلصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُونَ (183)” سورة البقرة 
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” Quran [ 2:183]

3. Fasting is to free enslavement to desires:

Human beings freely enjoy food and drinks and respond to all the physical needs of their bodies throughout the eleven months of the year. This one month of Ramadan is a chance to free one’s enslavement to physical desires, and instead feed and elevate their inner being by connecting it with its Creator through His words. Read for more: How to change in Ramadan

4. Understand pain and suffering:

The act of fasting allows the individual to understand the pain and suffering of millions around the world who live their lives in poverty and famine, leaving the participant feeling more grounded and grateful for all that Allah (SWT) has given them.

5. Fasting increases productivity:

Moreover, fasting also opens up doors for doing more, while it frees up time we are left to figure out how can we productively use that time. And while temporarily abstaining from things that are okay like eating, this gives us the courage and will to then leave any bad habit that we are struggling with and think we can’t do without; after all, we were able to leave eating and drinking! 

6. Fasting teaches being grateful and thankful:

Through fasting, one gets to be thankful for that which he/she has been given unconditionally by the Creator, which sometimes people take for granted. In essence, being grateful and thankful helps one come closer to Allah, (Ash-Shakoor) (The Appreciative). He appreciates even the smallest acts of the goodness of His creatures- even though He is (Al-Ghanyy) (The Free of any Need).  But, the focus during fasting in Ramadan is essentially on the soul.

How to Fast in Ramadan as a Muslim?

Muslims are obligated to fast every day from dawn to sunset (or from dawn to dusk).  Fasting is an obligatory act of worship which is abstinence from food, drink and sexual activity with one’s spouse during the day, but that’s the minimal amount of fasting. 

Actually the Messenger (PBUH) and Muslim scholars following his footsteps have explained that fasting is not just daytime worship but an all day and night commitment to please The Lord with what He likes.  

Fasting is preventing oneself from engaging in any behavior that displeases God.  Simply it’s a “Boot camp for Good Behavior” to please Allah day and night for thirty days.

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم‏:‏ ‏ “‏ من لم يدع قول الزور والعمل به فليس لله حاجة في أن يدع طعامه وشرابه‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه البخاري‏)‏‏)‏‏.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If one does not eschew lies and false conduct, Allah has no need that he should abstain from his food and his drink.”

What do Muslims eat during Ramadan ?

It is recommended that before the break of dawn, Muslims eat a prefast meal known as suhur. This meal often resembles breakfast, but in some cultures it may include more dinner-like foods. 

After sundown, Muslims break their fast with iftar, a meal which usually starts with dates and water or milk, followed by dinner. Muslims are permitted to snack at night between those two meals, and hydration is encouraged, especially when Ramadan falls during summer.

For suhur, iftar and snacks, Muslims can more easily make it to sundown by eating high-fiber meals to sustain satiety over longer periods, fruits and vegetables to maintain electrolyte stores, and plenty of fluids to maintain hydration.

Can Muslims drink water during Ramadan ?

No, Fasting during Ramadan means abstinence from all food or drink, including water and chewing gum, from dawn to sunset. Read also these articles:

Ramadan Habits

Eating During Ramadan

How to lose weight during Ramadan

Why do Muslims celebrate Ramadan ?

Ramadan is a month of intense spiritual rejuvenation with a heightened focus on devotion, during which Muslims spend extra time reading the Qur’an and performing special prayers. Read also these for more about this topic:

Ramadan Greetings

Ramadan Duas

Ramadan activities for kids

Can Muslims listen to music during Ramadan ? 

Listening to music is not allowed whether in Ramadan or any other month. Instead, Ramadan is a holy month that Muslims are waiting every year to make every minute in worshiping Almighty God and charge the battery of Iman (the inner faith) and increase the spiritual power that every Muslim needs to continue the whole year till the next Ramadan. 

Can Muslims have sex during Ramadan ?

Fasting Ramadan is only from the dawn time to sunset time, so during this time eating, drinking and having sexual intercourse is prohibited. After sunset it is allowed to have an intercourse until dawn time of the next day.

Can you participate in Ramadan if you’re not Muslim?

Fasting Ramadan is the third pillar of Islam. Anyone who wants to learn about Islam can practice this act of worship as only a new experience, not an act of worshiping Almighty God. For more about Islam, read:

What is Islam?

Steps to become a Muslim

What is Shahadah

Do Muslims work during Ramadan ?

Of course, there are many great battles that had occurred in Ramadan. Practicing work during Ramadan is a good thing, if it is not good, the companions of the Prophet Muhammad wouldn’t strove for the cause of Allah during great battles such as Badr battle which occurred in Ramadan.

How to greet Muslim during Ramadan ?

Muslims increase the good deeds in Ramadan such as preparing meals for the poor people, lighting up the streets and spreading the joy and happiness to all kinships, neighbors, and people around in their communities.

Can Muslims travel during Ramadan ?

Yes, however they have the permission to practice fasting that day at another time. For more in this context, read: Hadiths and Quran verses about Ramadan

What is the importance of Ramadan in Islam ?

Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic year, because the holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhamamd during this holy month. 

شَهۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِيٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ هُدٗى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَٰتٖ مِّنَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَٱلۡفُرۡقَانِۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوۡ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٖ فَعِدَّةٞ مِّنۡ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَۗ يُرِيدُ ٱللَّهُ بِكُمُ ٱلۡيُسۡرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ ٱلۡعُسۡرَ وَلِتُكۡمِلُواْ ٱلۡعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُواْ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَىٰكُمۡ وَلَعَلَّكُمۡ تَشۡكُرُونَ
“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,55 let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify God for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” Quran [ 2:185]

Also, fasting Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam.

What is the purpose of fasting in general and Ramadan in particular?

Fasting Ramadan has many purposes, of which are the following ones:

  • To submit to Allah Who sets this rule
  • To gain righteousness ( taqwa )
  • To learn patience and endurance 
  • To lean self-control 
  • To help Muslim to feel the pain of the poor and subsequently have it in his heart to be merciful, compassionate and givers

Is it only days of Ramadan that are special or Ramadan nights as well?

Nights of Ramadan are as special as its days, as Muslims are recommended to exert their utmost efforts  to please their Lord with all sorts and kinds of worship acts and with prayers in particular. 

Rewards for all acts of worship and good deeds are multiplied.  Muhammad PBUH set an example by praying extra prayers and striving even more during the last ten days and nights hoping to gain the rewards of “The night of The Decree” during which the revelation of Quran commenced. Read also about special events and worships in Ramadan:

Itikaf rules

Qiyam prayer

Laylatul Qadr

The Last Ten Days of Ramadan

Tahajjud Prayer

Why is Ramadan so special?  

That’s huge!  Ramadan is very special in Islam and for Muslims for a lot of reasons:

من صام رمضان إيمانًا واحتسابًا، غفر له ما تقدم من ذنبه ‏”‏
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “He who observes fasting during the month of Ramadan with Faith while seeking its reward from Allah, will have his past sins forgiven.”
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Is Fasting Ramadan obligatory?

Fasting of Ramadan is an obligation for every adult, sane and capable Muslim.  It’s one of the five pillars of Islam. It is abstinence from food, drink, and sexual activity with one’s spouse during the day.  

Fasting is not a day of worship as taught by Muhammad (PBUH), it’s a full day and night sincere observance of God; abstaining from all bad deeds and sins day and night as well as the day fast.  Even non-Muslims try the “Challenge of Fasting” for the health benefits discovered recently. 

Learn More About Ramadan-related topics:

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About Abeer Eltahan

Abeer El Tahhan is a pediatrician and a Quran and Arabic tutor. Abeer is deeply involved in Islamic studies and dawah activities. She is fluent in Arabic and English.