The holy month of Ramadan, also known as the Muslim month of fasting, starts around May 5 with continuous observance for 29 or 30 days. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

Exact dates cannot be given beforehand since the Islamic calendar is a lunar one and the actual date of observance is determined by viewing the crescent moon every month.

There is a 10-day, receding difference between the lunar and solar calendars each year. This gives Muslims an opportunity to observe Ramadan in different seasons and times of the year.

During this holy month of fasting, many historical events took place in Islam. In the Quran, Allah said, “Ramadan is the month in which Quran is revealed, a total guidance to mankind.”

Fasting during Ramadan is the third of five pillars that make up the Islamic way of life (Al-Deen) and is an institution that is binding on all healthy and able-bodied Muslim men and women.

The daily period of fasting is before dawn at approximately two hours before sunrise, and until after sunset.

During this period, Muslims who observe the practices must not eat, drink, smoke, indulge in marital sexual relations or become ill-tempered, according to the Holy Quran.

Ramadan serves as a periodic adjustment for proper human balance. This state ultimately allows individuals to gain self-mastery and total control over their heated desires, selfish appetites and other urges dominating their life.

Muslims deny the body those things which are normally lawful in order to strengthen the total self against all that is unlawful. Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessing Be Upon Him) said, “Whoever fasts but indulges in falsehood, let them know that their giving up of food and drink shall not benefit them with Allah.”

The Holy Quran instructs that “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed before you, that you might learn Taqwa (God-consciousness).”

For Muslims, it is not how long one can fast; it is how well he or she can follow the guidance of Allah. One of the important benefits of the fast is to bring to mind the hardship of the less fortunate members of the Muslim society. This makes humans more aware and more sympathetic to the needs of others.

During Ramadan, Muslims sacrifice time from their usual pastimes in order to increase their spiritual growth. The extra time is to be spent praying, reading the Holy Quran and re-establishing proper management over every aspect of one’s life.

Ramadan is a month of spending on the poor and those in need. It is also highly recommended to entertain friends and families for Iftar (fast-breaking meal).

Specific categories of people are exempted from fasting such as the sick, those traveling a distance of 50 miles or more, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and women in their monthly menstruation cycle. The last group is not only exempted but is forbidden to fast.

Full exemption is granted to those that are permanently incapacitated by reason of old age, an incurable disease or interrupted hard labor.

However, this category must substitute, each day that they cannot fast by feeding a hungry person for that day or by paying the cost of food sufficient to feed an average person a modest meal, if possible.

After Ramadan has ended, Muslims celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitr (The Festival of Fast-Breaking) around June 4. The first day of Eid begins a three-day observance of thanksgiving and rejoicing for the fulfillment of the fasting obligation.

The name of the festival is taken from the Arabic word “Fitra,” which means to donate an amount of money necessary to provide an average meal to a needy person of the Muslim society.

Congregational prayers on the first day of Eid are held in small towns and large cities all over the world with a large feast, festivities and related activities for the next two days.

The feast brings families and friends together. Elderly members of the family are visited by the younger ones for their respect and blessings from Allah. Friends and neighbors visit the sick, disabled and each other with gifts during the first three days.

Some accommodations may need to be made for Muslim Soldiers in order for them to observe the holy month of Ramadan. Muslim Soldiers and Department of Defense civilian personnel will request release from duty and work each day at least 30 minutes before sunset in order to make the necessary preparation for the observance of the Iftar and the after sunset prayer.

All Muslim personnel will request leave or pass in order to celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitr. Additionally, Muslim Soldiers will request an exemption from participation in daily rigorous physical training, long road marches and field training exercises.

Additional information and literature on Ramadan and Islam can be obtained from retired Chaplain (Capt.) Mohammed Khan at (910) 964-0817.