Ramadan is a month in the Islamic lunar calendar as well as an Islamic holy celebration. According to the Idiots Guide to the World's Religions:
Ramadan is ... a period of religious observance, adults embark on a rigidly observed period of abstention, reflection, and purification.
An Islamic site called Submitters describes the daily tasks of Ramadan:
The daily period of fasting starts at the breaking of dawn and ends at the setting of the sun. In between -- that is, during the dawn and daylight hours -- Muslims (Submitters) totally abstain from food, drink, smoking, and sex. The usual practice is to have a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before dawn and a post-fast meal (iftar) after sunset.
Within the month of Ramadan, which falls on Sept 13 - Oct 13, are many different celebrations and events. It can be divided into 3 ten day segments known as Rahmah (mercy), Maghfirah (forgiveness), and Najah (salvation).
Laylat al-Qadr is traditionally the 27th night of Ramadan and represents the anniversary of when Muhammad first was given parts of the Qur'an and also the anniversary of when the Qur'an was delivered to earth. This "Night of Power" falls on October 7 this year. The last major celebration of Ramadan is Id al-Fitr which is the feast at the end of the fast and lasts for three days! It is also a time of almsgiving.
I always thought of Ramadan as a period of fasting and this is definitely the main part of the celebration, during the daytime. Wikipedia describes the fasting
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.
This is a different style fast than we as Christians are used to. This is made even clearer by the Crescent Project who makes it very clear that Muslims "make up their fasts at night", instead of completely abstaining for the 30 day period. It is important to note at this point that Islam is very much a works-based salvation instead of salvation through grace.
It is important that Muslims become aware of their need for grace. We should be praying for the millions of Muslims around the world. To get e-mailed prayer updates visit 30 Days of Prayer they also have a neat interactive site. Some specific prayer requests from the Crescent Project are:
- Pray that God will act during the Night of Power so that people may have a revelation of Jesus. Read some real stories about this.
- Pray for those who are genuinely seeking the Lord's help. may he give them the help they need. Ps 34:18