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The fourth pillar of Islam, which is fasting, is practiced during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is derived from an Arabic word for intense heat and sun-scorched ground. (in Arabic: Ø±Ù…Ø¶Ø§Ù†, Ramaá¸Än) â€“ or Ramzan in several countries â€“ and it is the ninth month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, established in the year 638 CE. It is considered the most venerated, blessed and spiritually-beneficial month of the Islamic year. Prayers, fasting, charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month. God prescribes daily fasting for all able, adult Muslims during the whole month of Ramadan, beginning with the sighting of the new moon.
“Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. Allah wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify Allah for guiding you, and to express your appreciation.”[2:185]
The most holy night during the Ramadan, Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power). It has more blessing than a thousand months. the Quran Chapter 97
According to the fuqaha â€” Islamic jurists and legislators â€” in 2006 the month of Ramadan (1427 AH) began on September 23 (Middle East, East Africa, North Africa and West Africa) and September 24 elsewhere (including Turkey, North America, Southeast Asia, and the rest of the Middle East). In Pakistan, excluding some parts of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), it was September 25. It lasted until October 22 or October 23.
Practices during Ramadan
There are some variations regarding the time in which Ramadan’s fasting takes place for different Muslims around the world. Since the festival is linked to the lunar calendar and the new moon is not in the same state at the same time globally, it would depend on which lunar sighting that individual recognizes. Everyday during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world break their fast when the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib, is due.
The most prominent event of this month is the fasting practiced by most observant Muslims. The fasting during Ramadan has been so predominant in defining the month that some have been led to believe the name of this month, Ramadan, is the name of Islamic fasting, when in reality the Arabic term for fasting is Sawm.
Proscriptions and prescriptions during Ramadan
Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Istanbul in Ramadan (the writing with lights called mahya)
During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam as well as refraining from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backstabbing, and gossip. They are encouraged to read the Qur’an. Sexual intercourse during fasting in the day is not allowed but is permissible after the fast (when referring to sexual intercourse, it is intended to mean with one’s spouse alone, as all pre- and extra-marital relations are strictly forbidden in Islam). Obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Properly observing the fast is supposed to induce a comfortable feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, sacrifice, as well as sympathy for those who are less fortunate, intending to make Muslims more generous and charitable.
In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur’an.
Sunni Muslims tend to perform the recitation of the entire Qur’an by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, which are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur’an (â€˜Juz’, which is 1/30 of the Qur’an) is recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Qur’an has been completed. Tarawih is an Arabic phrase referring to those extra prayers. This prayer is performed after salah of Isha’a. Sunnis believe it is customary to attempt a khatm (complete recitation) of the Qur’an in Ramadan by reciting at least one juz per night in Tarawih. These are done in remembrance of the fact that the revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad was begun during Ramadan.
Shia Muslims view this prayer as a Bid’ah and caution all to stay away from it. Instead of performing Tarawih, Shia Muslims perform the night prayer during Ramadan just like any other night. This night prayer performed every night is called Qiyam al-layl, better known as Tahajjud. It must be noted, that Shia Muslims also attempt to read the entire Qur’an by the end of the month.
The three parts of the month of Ramadan
Rahmat: which means mercy of God.
Maghfirat which means forgiveness of God.
The Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (Arabic: Ø¹ÙŠØ¯ Ø§Ù„ÙØ·Ø±) marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fast, a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor (â€˜Zakat al-Fitrâ€™), everyone put on their best, preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends. The prayer is two rakaahs only, and it is an optional prayer as opposed to the compulsory 5 daily prayers.
Six days of Shawwal
Muslims are encouraged to fast six days in â€˜Shawwalâ€™, the month following Ramadan beginning after Eid ul-Fitr. There are six days of fasting during Shawwal which, together with the Ramadan fasts, are equivalent to fasting “perpetually” (according to Sahih Muslim). Usually, this is taken to mean the whole year Islam online . It is a common misconception that the six days of fasting must be undertaken on consecutive days. It is said that fasting six days of Shawwal is like fasting for one full year.
Observance of Ramadan in Polar Regions
Obviously, observing the rules of the Qur’an regarding Ramadan is all but impossible in the Arctic and Antarctic regions of the world. Because the polar “day” lasts extremely long in the summer, and is almost nonexistent in the winter, the rulings against eating or drinking during the day in Ramadan is impossible to accurately observe. As such, most Muslims in polar regions will observe the day/night cycle of a more equatorial Muslim nation.
Effects on human health
Studies conducted on Ramadan-style fasting have shown that fasting affects human biochemistry. Such fasting results in an increase in serum lipids and uric acid, though the latter has no adverse health effects. Long term effects, such and increase in HDL cholesterol and a decrease in LDL cholesterol have been observed with Ramadan fasting. 
A decrease in blood glucose, actate and pyruvate, has also been observed, possibly indicating alterations in metabolic activities. Basal metabolism also slows down, and fat is used more efficiently during such fasting. During fasting, the liver responds with adaptive changes in metabolic activities. The increased activities of enzymes involved in the degradation as well as the production of glucose suggest that RTF enhances nutrition and energy metabolism. There is no conclusive evidence whether the weight of an individual is affected positively or negatively by Ramadan style fasting.
Because Muslims must abstain from smoking during Ramadan, The Muslim Health Network, the anti-smoking charity Quit and the British Heart Foundation launched the “Tobacco and secondhand Smoke Free Ramadan Campaign” in 2003.
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