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Ramadan is important for Muslims is because it is believed to be the month in which the first verses of the Holy Qur'an (the divine scripture) were revealed by Allah (God) to the Prophet Muhammad (570-632 C.E.). From time to time, Muhammad used to go out from Makkah, where he was born and where he worked as a caravan trader, to reflect and meditate in solitude. Like Abraham before him, he had never accepted his people's worship of many gods, and felt a need to withdraw to a quiet place to reflect on the One God. One night, while contemplating in a cave near Makkah, he heard a voice call out, telling him to "Read!" Muhammad protested that he was unable to read. The voice insisted again, and then a third time, and Muhammad found himself reciting the first verses of the Qur'an.
Why do Muslims fast?
For Muslims, fasting has a number of benefits:
1. It helps one to feel compassion for those who are less fortunate and underprivileged, since each day Muslims feel greater appreciation for what they have as a result of feeling hunger and thirst.
2. It allows one to build a sense of self-control and will-power, which can be beneficial throughout life in dealing with temptations and peer-pressure. Through fasting, Muslims learn to control their natural urges such as hunger and thirst, and thus are able to better resist temptations for things which are not necessary, such as drugs or other unhealthy or harmful substances and behaviors.
3. It offers a time for Muslims to "purify" their bodies as well as their souls, by developing a greater sense of hurnility, spirituality and community. Ramadan is a very spiritual time for Muslims, and often they invite each other to one another's homes to break the fast and pray together. A greater sense of generosity and forgiveness is also characteristic of this time.
As with other duties in Islam, fasting becomes obligatory (i.e. one becomes accountable) after the age of puberty.
What is required during fasting?
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day. This means not consuming food and drink, including water, during the daylight hours. For married adults, it also includes refraining from marital relations during the hours of fasting (i.e. the daylight hours). In the Arabic language, fasting is known as "sawm". Muslims arise early in the morning during Ramadan to have a pre-dawn breakfast meal, known as "suhoor". At the end of the day, the fast is completed by taking the iftar meal, which usually includes dates, fresh fruits, appetizers, beverages and dinner. Later in the evening, Muslims attend special nightly tarawih prayers at their local masjid.
Who is required to fast?
Only people who have gone through puberty are required to fast. If you 're too old, ill,young, feeble or are traveling the Qur'an says you are not required to fast. Otherwise you must restrain from food and drink. It is obligatory upon every Muslim after reaching the age of puberty to fast each day of Ramadan and not miss any fasting day intentionally. It is obligatory to make up any days for which fasting was missed uninentionally during Ramadan by fasting at a later date whether or not they had a valid excuse among which are menstruation, pregnancy, nursing a baby, illness, travel and so on.
What is Eid Ul-Fitr?
After the end of Ramadan, a very festive and joyous holiday is celebrated by Muslims, known as Eid ulFitr [eid ul fit-ur], the Festival of Breaking the Fast. On the day of the Eid, Muslims attend special congregational prayers in the morning, wearing their nicest clothes and perfumes. After the completion of prayers and a special sermon, Muslims rise to greet and hug one another, saying, "We id Mubarak," which means, "Holiday Blessings." Later on, Muslim farnilies visit each other's homes, and have special meals together. Children are often rewarded with gifts, money, and sweets. Lights and other decorations mark the happy occasion.
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