Sawm means fasting. Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan comes around 11 days earlier each successive year; so there is no Western season associated with Ramadan.
During the 29/30 days of Ramadan all adult Muslims must give up the following things during the hours of daylight:
- Food or drink of any sort
- Smoking, including passive smoking
- Sexual activity
Muslims who are physically or mentally unwell may be excused from some or all of the above listed requirements. Another group of believers excepted from these requirements are: under twelve years old; the very old; those who are pregnant; breast-feeding; menstruating; and/or, travelling. If an adult does not fast for the reasons aforementioned will be required to make up the fast at a later date, or make a donation to the poor instead.
Muslims not only abstain from physical things during Ramadan, they are also expected to do their best to avoid evil thoughts and deeds as well. During the month of Ramadhan, the whole Qur'an is recited by reciting one of the 30 section's of the Qur'an each night.
Reasons for this fast, include:
- Obedience to God
- Learning self-discipline
- Becoming spiritually stronger
- Appreciating God's gifts to us
- Sharing the sufferings of the poor and developing sympathy for them
- Realizing the value of charity and generosity
- Giving thanks for the Qur’an, which was first revealed in the month of Ramadan
- Fellowshiping with other Muslims
Eating during Ramadan
During Ramadan many Muslims will try to eat a large meal called suhur just before dawn. When daylight is over, most Muslims will break or open the fast with dates or water, following the example of Muhammed before having a proper meal later. The evening meals during Ramadan are occasions for family and community get-togethers.
The month of Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid ul-Fitr. This is marked by dressing up and visiting the mosque for prayer, and with visits and sharing of gifts to family and friends and celebratory meals.