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Ramadan 101: Everything to Know About Islam’s Sacred 9th Month

Ramadan 101: Everything to Know About Islam’s Sacred 9th Month

Summary:

What is Ramadan? Fasting is a big part of it, but there’s SO much more to know about Ramadan! Here’s a complete beginner’s guide to the holy month.

Ramadan Kareem to you!

For 2020, April 24 marks the first full day of Ramadan, it starting just the night before, on the evening of April 23.

But what is Ramadan, exactly? When and how is Ramadan celebrated? And how to wish someone to have a happy Ramadan?

Not to worry!

In this post, you’ll get a complete beginner’s guide to Ramadan, complete with its meaning, important dates, traditions, greetings, and more. So, let’s get started, shall we?

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan (Ramaḍān) is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, commonly treated by Muslims around the world as a month of abstinence, heavy Quran reading, fasting, community activities, charity giving, prayer, and introspection. For Muslims, Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year.

Observing Ramadan as a holy month with all its requisite activities is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, mandatory for Muslim believers to practice and uphold.

Why is Ramadan a holy month?

Well, in Islam, the prophet Muhammad had his first revelation from the angel Jibrīl (Gabriel in English). In this revelation, it is said that Muhammad was commanded by Gabriel to read. He tells Gabriel he is unable to read, at which point Gabriel hugs him and reveals the opening verses of Quran chapter 96.

The Quran in chapter 2, verse 185 then calls for the month to be considered holy:

Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.
Quran 2:185, translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali

Related Read: Month Names & Origins: How Did the Months Get Their Names in English?

When is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a complete month in the Muslim calendar which also is treated as a holiday, a holy month for fasting and other religious activities.

Since the month of Ramadan is on the lunar Islamic calendar (also known as the Hijrī calendar), it doesn’t always fall on the same set of dates as on the Gregorian calendar which most of the world uses. The Muslim calendar does have 12 months, but its year only has either 354 or 355 days. Also, months are 29-30 days long each and each usually begin around a new moon.

So, getting back to Ramadan. The Islamic month of Ramadan goes from the evening of April 23 through to May 23, 2020. However, since as we mentioned it follows a different calendar than the Gregorian, it will change in the following years:

  • In 2021, Ramadan will begin on the evening of April 12 and it ends on the evening of May 11;
  • In 2022, Ramadan will begin on the evening of April 2 and it ends on the evening of May 1;
  • In 2023, Ramadan will begin on the evening of March 22 and it ends on the evening of April 20;
  • In 2024, Ramadan will begin on the evening of March 10 and it ends on the evening of April 8;
  • In 2025, Ramadan will begin on the evening of February 28 and it ends on the evening of March 29.

However, since a new moon is hard to see with the naked eye, some people wait to begin Ramadan until they can observe the sliver of the crescent moon (hilal) which comes just after. And a fun fact: “The need to determine the precise appearance of the hilal was one of the inducements for Muslim scholars to study astronomy,” according to Oxford Islamic Studies.

Related Read: Persian vs Arabic vs Middle Eastern: What’s the Difference?

Ramadan Ashras & Important Days

Ramadan is 30 days in length, but it is divided into 3 segments, or stages, of 10 days each, known as ashras (for the Arabic word meaning “ten”). Each ashra has its own unique dua, or an Islamic prayer of request and/or worship.

Ramadan Ashra 1, Days 1-10 (Rehma)

The first ashra of Ramadan is known as Rehma, ten days which commemorate the mercy of Allah. Along with particular Quran passages read sometime during these 10 days, it is a time for believers to practice introspection, analyze how merciful they are to others, and control their tempers.

Ramadan Ashra 2, Days 11-20 (Maghfirah)

The second ashra of Ramadan is known as Maghfirah, and it is meant to celebrate Allah’s forgiveness. It, too, has its own dua, and Maghfirah is a special time for also seeking Allah’s forgiveness. Supposedly, he’s at peak forgiving mode during this ashra, so this is the time to seek repentance.

Ramadan Ashra 3, Days 21-30 (Nijat)

The third ashra of Ramadan is known as Nijat, and it commemorates safety and protection from hell. During the last ten days of Ramadan, believers quote another dua and ask for Allah’s salvation from the fires of hell.

Also—

Since Ramadan is an entire month in length, there are a lot of days to consider. While every day in the month is important and has general rules, there are also several key days which carry more weight.

Days 19-21 – For Shia Muslims, these three days are to mark Ali ibn Abi Talib’s martyrdom. Ali ibn Abi Talib is accepted by Shia Muslims as the first legitimate imam of the Shia branch of Islam.

~ Day 23 – Around the 23rd night of Ramadan is Laylat al-Qadr, or the “Night of Power” in English, the night when the Quran was sent to Earth and those first verses we mentioned earlier were shown to Muhammad. However, some traditions believe it happens on the night preceding the 27th day of Ramadan.

Day 30 – The last evening of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr (pronounced eed ahl fee-trr), a holiday within a holiday, in a sense. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and, as follows, the end of fasting. This is why Eid al-Fitr is known as the “Festival of Breaking the Fast.”

men praying in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan
Men praying during Ramadan at the Shrine of Ali or “Blue Mosque” in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. Taken by Wikimedia Commons user vetman. [CC BY-SA 3.0].

How to Wish Someone a “Happy Ramadan”

There are two common ways to wish someone a happy Ramadan:

Ramadan Mubarak” – This basically is akin to saying “happy Ramadan” or wishing someone to “have a blessed Ramadan,” as “Mubarak” roughly translates to blessed.”

Ramadan Kareem” – This is more like saying “have a generous Ramadan,” and it is one of the best ways to wish someone well for this holy month.

Finally, there’s “Eid Mubarak“. Since the last day of Ramadan is the holiday Eid al-Fitr, you can be more specific and wish your friends “Eid Mubarak,” or “happy Eid al-Fitr.”

Well, that’s all for now on our Ramadan 101 guide, and we hope you now have a better understanding and appreciation for this holy Muslim month! Got any questions, feedback, or other points to add about Ramadan fasting, traditions, history, or other categories? Let us know below in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Christian Eilers
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Christian Eilers
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