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Ramadan is the most sacred time of the year for people of the Islamic faith. During this month-long observance, Muslims fast daily from sunrise to sunset. Fasting (sawm) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The others are: Profession of Faith (shahada); Prayer (salat); Alms (zakat); and Pilgrimage (hajj).
For Muslims, Ramadan is a spiritual time to pray, study the Quran, reflect on one's relationship with Allah/God, and give to others. It is also a time to celebrate with loved ones.
Ramadan coincides with the cycle of the new moon, and falls in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, marking the first revelation of the holy book, the Quran, to the prophet Muhammad.
Islamic belief states that Allah forgives the sins of those who pray and fast with faithful intentions. Muslims from puberty age through adult are required to fast from dawn to dusk. This does not apply to people with certain medical conditions, the elderly, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Fasting during Ramadan does not mean that Muslims do not eat or drink anything the entire time. They are able to eat an evening meal, called Iftar, after the sun goes down and a morning meal, called Suhoor, before dawn.
The Holy Month of Ramadan ends when the crescent moon is seen in Mecca on the 29th day. If it is not, then an additional day is included, making the observance last a full 30 days. The day after Ramadan ends, Muslims celebrate with a festival called Eid-al-Fitr, meaning "Festival of the Breaking of the Fast."
If you are not a Muslim, but want to support friends and family who are, it is a good time to learn more about the culture and the Islamic faith. Non-Muslims are free to fast, pray, and reflect during Ramadan. Charitable acts and helping those in need are other ways to observe. Greet those observing Ramadan by saying "Ramadan Eid kareem"or "Ramadan Eid mubarak" - both give good wishes and blessings for Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.