Ramadan is not a holiday, but a holy month. It is the ninth month of the Muslim year, in which "the Qur'an was sent down as a guidance for the people" (1). Ramadan is similar to the Jewish Yom Kippur in that both constitute a period of atonement; Ramadan, however, is seen less as atonement and more as an obedient response to a command from God. (2)
During Ramadan, those who are able must abstain from evil thoughts and deeds, food and drink (including water), and sexual intercourse from dawn until dusk for the entire month. Because the holiday cycles through the solar year, this fast can be much more difficult in some years than others. When Ramadan falls in the summer season, the days of fasting are longer and it is a greater hardship to do without water.
Non-Muslims in Muslim countries during Ramadan must be careful not to eat, drink, or smoke in the presence of Muslims during the daytime hours of fasting, as the law requires adherence to the fast in public.
The traditional greeting during Ramadan is "Ramadan Mubarak" ("May God give you a blessed month") and the reply is "Ramadan Karim" ("May God give you a generous month"). (3)
The beginning and end of Ramadan are announced when one trustworthy witness testifies before the authorities that the new moon has been sighted; a cloudy sky may, therefore, delay or prolong the fast.
The end of the fast is celebrated with one of two Islamic festivals, 'Id al-Fitr. (4)
2."Islam." Encyclopędia Britannica (Encyclopędia Britannica Premium Service, 2004).
3.Lingnet: The Global Language Network.
4."Islam." Encyclopędia Britannica (Encyclopędia Britannica Premium Service, 2004).
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.