Ramadan is observed as the most auspicious occasion for the Islamic Community. The ninth month of the year is regarded as the holiest month of the year. This is the month in which the popular belief is that the Qur'an "was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation".
The Muslims believe in the performance of five central duties in their lifetime to attain their spiritual goal. All Muslims fervently work towards realizing these five pillars to strengthen and protect their faith. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is believed to be one of these five major goals. It is important to protect purity of both thoughts and actions during the fasting hours. The fast is intended to be an enacting of deep spiritual awakening to seek a raised level of closeness to Allah. According to one important hadith, the person performing Ramadan properly will have all his past sins forgiven.
The Islamic calendar or Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar, and the months begin when the first crescent of the new moon is seen. So, as the Islamic lunar calendar year is quite a few days shorter than the solar year and has no intercalation, Ramadan is likely to migrate throughout the months.
In many parts of the world, Ramadan starts only when the religious prophets declare that they have seen the first crescent of the new moon. But this is a widely-debated methodology for commencement of Hilāl or the start date of Ramadan, since Muslims residing in different parts of the world will thus have Ramadan starting for them on different dates because of geographical and climatic differences. Now-a-days, however, more Muslims are eager to use astronomical calculations to avoid this type of confusion, though still, the Purists don’t want to change the age-old tradition of sighting the moon in person.
According to the Holy Quran one may eat and drink at any time during the night, but never during the day. The dictum thus goes:
"Until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night."
Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims need to get up before dawn and have their breakfast known as Sehri or Sahari .Then they perform the fajr or the Morning Prayer. After that, they are barred from having anything at all until the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib. They break their fast at Maghrib (at sunset) prayer time with Iftar. After that, it is customary for the Muslims to visit their family and friends. As the Islamic day starts after the sunset, the Muslims may continue to eat and drink after the sun has set until the next morning's fajr.
Smoking and indulging in sex is strictly prohibited during the month of Ramadan. One even has to keep away from obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. It is said that the holiness of the mind that is attained through Ramadan can be completely destroyed by these five things:
To read the entire Qur'an is also another important part of Ramadan. The recitation of the entire Qur'an called Tarawih is encouraged. The recitations are held in the mosques every night of the month.
Ramadan is also a great time for shopping and social bonding. Muslims enjoy shopping, eating, spending time with their friends and family during the evening hours. So many shops remain open during this time until the late hours of the night.
When the fast ends, it is celebrated for three days and celebrated through Eid. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. The occasion is auspicious and usually comes after 29 or 30 days of fasting, though it is largely dependent on the sighting of the new moon.
During this festival, the Muslim people put on new clothes and gather together to pray and have family meals. Food and clothes are donated to the poor. Fairs are also held to celebrate Ramadan.
The evening of either the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th day of the month, is celebrated as the Laylat-al-Qadr, though there is no history in the Quran as to when the specific date is. The popular belief is that, on this day Allah determines the course of the next year. The Muslims believe that, it was on this night that Muhammad received the revelation of the Holy Quran from Him.