The Question:

What is Ramadan and how is it celebrated?

The Answer:

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a "month of blessing" marked by prayer, fasting, and charity. Muslims believe that during the month of Ramadan, Allah revealed the first verses of the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam.

At many mosques during Ramadan, about one thirtieth of the Qur'an is recited each night in prayers known as tarawih. In this way, by the end of the month the complete scripture will have been recited.

Muslims practice sawm, or fasting, for the entire month of Ramadan. This means that they may eat or drink nothing, including water, while the sun shines. Families get up early for suhoor, a meal eaten before the sun rises. After the sun sets, the fast is broken with a meal known as iftar.

Fasting serves many purposes. While they are hungry and thirsty, Muslims are reminded of the suffering of the poor. Fasting is also an opportunity to practice self-control and to cleanse the body and mind. And in this most sacred month, fasting helps Muslims feel the peace that comes from spiritual devotion as well as kinship with fellow believers.

For more information, read Ramadan: The Month of Fasting.

—The Fact Monster