Why Muslims Celebrate Ramadan

A man reads the koran as Indonesian Muslims wait for the first day of Ramadan prayers at Al-azhar Mosque in Jakarta on June 17, 2015, to mark the Muslim holy fasting month. More than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world will mark the month, during which believers abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and having sex from dawn until sunset. AFP PHOTO / Bay ISMOYO        (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

What to know about the Muslim holy month

Wednesday evening marked the beginning of Ramadan, a month of sunrise-to-sunset fasting for nearly 1.6 billion Muslims across the world. But what exactly is Ramadan? Here’s a quick guide:

What is Ramadan?

For Muslims, Ramadan is a holy month dedicated to prayer, Quran recitation, introspection and fasting during the sunlight hours. But the Arabic word for fasting—sawm—doesn’t only refer to abstaining from food or drink. It translates literally to “refrain,” and encompasses abstinence from food, drink, having sex, and all evil thoughts and deeds in the interest of self-purification. Muslims observing the holy month break the daily fast with an evening meal called Iftar, often beginning with a few sips of water or something sweet, like an odd number of dates.

What’s the religious significance of Ramadan?

Ramadan is believed to be the holiest month of the year within Islam, and the month in which the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. In this month, the gates to heaven are believed to be open and the gates to hell closed. Muslims are instructed to fast in the Surat Al-Baqarah, the second and longest chapter of the Quran.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TIME MAGAZINE

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