By Jana Melpolder
1. A Month of Restraint
Muslims consider the 9th month of their calendar, known as Ramadan, to be more than just a time of fasting – it’s a month of restraint for the whole body. They do not listen to those who swear or look at obscene or unlawful things. Overall, they work to avoid smoking, sex, food, evil thoughts and acts, and more. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims usually give to charity, a practice called Zakah al-Fitr. This is in connection to the usual practice of giving to charity, known as Zakat, which is one of five pillars of Islam.
2. Fast from Dawn to Dusk
The daily schedule for a Muslim participating in Ramadan can be hard on the body. They will wake early (before sunrise) to eat. As soon as the sun comes up, they must refrain from both food and drink (including water) until the sun sets, and if Ramadan happens to fall during the summer, this makes for a long day. After sunset, the individual may eat and drink anything but alcohol because Muslims are always forbidden to drink alcohol.
3. Nightly Feast
Once the sun goes down Ramadan observers break the fast in a group setting. The fast is broken by a large feast prepared throughout the day. At times going from famine to feast can be difficult since the body goes from one extreme to another.
4. The Ritual Eating of a Date
Every evening of Ramadan the fast is broken at dusk by eating a date, although only some Muslims do this and it is not required. This practice comes from the belief that the prophet Muhammad ate dates when breaking the fast centuries ago.
Children in Muslim families will not join their parents and other adults in the full Ramadan fast. Instead, they may fast for only one day a week or for a few hours at a time. Once a boy or girl reaches puberty they will start to practice the fast like adults. On the final day of Ramadan, known as Eid al-Fitr, children are given money and sweets to celebrate.