Ramadan: A Fact Sheet For Teachers and Parents Islam is one of the world's major religions, and is the final link in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition of monotheism (belief in One God). Islam has two major religious celebrations. One of them, known as Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice), takes place during the time of the Hajj, or annual pilgrimage to the city of Mecca (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). The other celebration occurs after the completion of Ramadan, the Islamic month during which Muslims (believers in Islam) fast daily from dawn to sunset as part of an effort towards self-purification and betterment. This holiday is known as Eid al-Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast). The Lunar Calendar Among the most important duties for a Muslim is fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan, which is the ninth of the twelve months in the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims use a lunar calendar for many of their religious observances. A new month in the lunar calendar is determined by the appearance of a new crescent moon. As a result, dates of events in the Islamic lunar year "move forward" about 11 days every year. The Importance of Ramadan Ramadan is important for Muslims is because it is believed to be the month in which the first verses of the Holy QurÂ’an (the divine scripture) were revealed by Allah (God) to Prophet Muhammad (570-632 C.E.). Muslims consider the QurÂ’an to be God's speech recorded in the Arabic language, and transmitted to humanity through Muhammad, who is considered the last of the prophets. This tradition of God-chosen prophets or messengers is believed to include such figures as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. 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. Why 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 willpower, 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 humility, 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. Eid al-Fitr After the end of Ramadan, a very festive and joyous holiday is celebrated by Muslims, known as Eid al-Fitr [eed 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. After the completion of prayers and a special sermon, Muslims rise to greet and hug one another, saying "Eid Mubarak," which means "Holiday Blessings." Later on, Muslim families 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.