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Unlike some of the Christian holidays, Ramadan doesn't fall on a particular day every year. Ramadan is referred to as a lunar holiday. The observation of Ramadan moves through the year, eventually occurring in each of the seasons. Most of us are familiar with Christmas being celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ.  But what is the origin of Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic year (which is lunar) and marks the anniversary of more than one significant event. It was during Ramadan that the Koran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. According to legend, he was sitting alone in the wilderness when suddenly the angel Gabriel came to him with a golden tablet in his hands. The angel told Muhammad to read what was
written on the tablet. What was on this golden tablet is said to be the essence of the Koran, just as the Tablets of the Law that Moses received on Mt. Sinai were the basis of the bible's Old Testament..

Another event is said to be the Battle of Badr - which is the first battle between Mecca and Medina
residents. The people of Mecca were idol worshippers and the people of Medina were Muslims, in which the Muslims had a glorious victory.

The Islamic faith has what is termed The 5 Pillars or requirements of that faith.  One of the
most well known is fasting, which begins when the new moon is sighted (usually on the 28th day of the previous month). As I said earlier, Ramadan moves through the year as it's start date. So, when Ramadan falls in the height of summer, fasting is a bit more difficult to observe because the days are
nearly 16 hours long. Why is this a problem?

Because their fasting is for daylight hours only and they can not eat or drink until the sun goes down. Muslims are permitted to hold water in their mouths for a moment, but they can not swallow it.

The purpose of fasting is to teach self-discipline and is needed to prepare for the suffering that Muslims may have to face in the course of obeying their God. They also feel it is a powerful means of defeating Satan because the poisons that are Satan's weapons are strengthened by eating and drinking. And they also all do it at the same time, creating a communal experience in which they all know what it's like to be hungry.

According to the Phophet, there are 5 things that will undo all the good that comes from fasting:
1. Telling a lie
2.  Denouncing someone behind his or her back
3. Slander
4. A False Oath
5. Greed or Covetousness

In the evening, when you can break the fast and eat, (known as Iftar) it is usually customary to begin with a white soup made of wheat broiled in meat broth. This is followed later by a regular dinner of meat, rice and vegetables. Iftar is a happy occassion and food is either prepared at home or purchased at a market. The timing of Iftar is usually announced on the radio or television today. But the old tradition is to listen for the call from the minarets of the mosque. Some Muslims will break their fast by first taking a drink of water and eating a date, just as the Prophet broke his fast years prior. Now, when do you start to fast? The rule is that when it becomes light enough where you can tell a white thread from a black thread, the fast must begin.

The Muslim belief states that whoever observes this fasting faithfully and with pure intentions, will have his or her sins forgiven. Fasting during Ramadan is said to be 30 times more powerful than fasting any other time of the year.

In many Islamic countries, the beginning of Ramadan is announced by a firing of a gun or cannon on the eve of the first day (which begins at sunset not sunrise!)

Cannon fire is also used to signal the beginning and end of each day's fast.

The morning hours are usually spent reciting the Koran, while the rest of the day is spent sleeping, reading and praying. Then, as sunset approaches, Muslims gather in the mosque to chant the Koran and pray. When the gun announces the end of the fast, they return home to eat. It is compulsory for every Muslim over the age of 12 to observe the fast.Children learn to fast by doing so gradually, until they are old enough to do so without injuring their health.

Ramadan is a time for self-examination and increased religious devotion. The fast ends when the new moon is again sighted and the month of Shawwal begins. It is followed by the Id Al-Fitr feasting and the exchange of gifts.
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