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Believers are expected to follow the Five Pillars of Islam. Included in the five basic acts are ritual prayer five times a day (Salat) and declaring there is no god except God and that Muhammad is God’s Messenger (Shahadah). The Pillar that will be discussed in this article is Sawm which is fasting and self-control during the month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims around the globe observe many rituals, including fasting. This year, Ramadan began on June 17. The Islamic calendar is based on the sightings of the moon and thus the beginning and end of Ramadan can’t be confirmed beforehand.

Some of the observances during Ramadan are Sawm (fasting), zakat and sadaqah (alms giving) and reading the holy Quran. Muslims fast from dawn to sunset and are exempt from fasting for a few reasons including if they are travelling, ill or elderly. Muslims also refrain from smoking and sinful behavior like fighting. It is believed that the spiritual rewards for fasting are increased during the month of Ramadan.

Meals are consumed before and right after the period of fasting. The meal at dawn is known as Suhur and the meal at sunset, or the one Muslims breakfast with, is Iftar. After Suhur, Muslims begin Fajr, the first prayer of the day. When it comes to Iftar, dates are usually the first food used to breakfast, and according to tradition, Muhammed broke fast with three dates. This is usually followed by Maghrib, the fourth  of the five daily prayers.

Since recent times, Ramadan has become more festive and in certain countries lanterns are hung and streets are lit with lights. In Sri Lanka, you may have noticed the many Ramadan Kareem and Ramadan Mubarak wishes on store fronts, billboards and magazines. Further, Iftar events are organized by restaurants, communities and organizations. Further, stores often have sales during this time.

Benefits of Ramadan (www.islam.about.com)
Through fasting, a Muslim experiences hunger and thirst, and sympathizes with those in the world who have little to eat every day.

Through increased devotion, Muslims feel closer to their Creator, and recognize that everything we have in this life is a blessing from Him.

Through increased charity, Muslims develop feelings of generosity and good-will toward others. The Prophet Muhammad once said, “A man’s wealth is never diminished by charity.”

Through self-control, a Muslim practices good manners, good speech, and good habits.

Through changing routines, Muslims have a chance to establish more   healthy lifestyle habits — particularly with regards to diet and smoking.

Through family and community gatherings, Muslims strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, in their own communities and throughout the world.

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