Ramadan is the holy month in Islam and one of the most important events of the year. It’s celebrated by Muslims around the globe. Have you ever wondered why Ramadan is celebrated and why the dates vary from year to year?
I’ve compiled a useful guide to Ramadan. Let me explain to you the most important traditions to know and the expected dates for Ramadan for the coming years.
What is Ramadan?
If you’re not a Muslim, you might have heard about Ramadan as the month during which Muslims fast. Fasting basically means to refrain from eating and drinking during daytime. It’s considered one of the most important things during Ramadan.
However, Ramadan is much more than fasting.
Ramadan is the holy month in Islam. It’s all about spiritualty and a person’s bond with God and family. Besides fasting, many worshippers dedicate more time to family and religious activities such as praying or studying the Qura’an (the holy book in Islam).
In many Islamic countries, working hours are shorter which makes fasting much easier than with a busy schedule.
Ramadan is More Than Fasting
Fasting (refraining from eating and drinking during daylight) is probably the best known Ramadan rule. However, Ramadan isn’t only about fasting. The purpose of the holy month is to grow spiritually and to get closer to God (Allah) and one’s family.
The most important rules during Ramadan are:
- Fasting from sunrise to sunset (no food, water, chewing gums…) during daylight hours
- No smoking (cigarettes, hookah…)
- Not involving in sexual activities
- Avoiding arguments and not using swear words
Of course, there are a few more rules, but these are the most important ones.
Generally speaking, anyone (men and women) who has undergone puberty has to fast. However, there are some exceptions. People who are sick, on their periods, pregnant or traveling don’t have to fast. If a person breaks the fast (for whatever reason), he or she is expected to make up for that day at a later moment.
Ramadan is a major event for any Muslim. It’s a common tradition to wish someone a happy Ramadan at the beginning of the holy month. There are several Ramadan greetings which are used among family, friends, colleagues and even strangers.
Below are some common Ramadan greetings:
|Ramadan Greeting (Latin Script)
|Ramadan Greeting (Arabic Script)
Both ramadan kareem as well as ramadan mubarak are common Ramadan greetings in Arabic which are widely used and understood across the Middle East.
Iftar and Suhoor
Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. This can easily surpass 12 hours, depending on the time of the year and the geographic location.
With a limited amount of time to eat (sunset to sunrise) and an even longer amount of time without food and water, food during Ramadan is different than usually.
The first meal in the evening (after sunset) is called Iftar. After a long day of fasting, Iftar usually contains a lot of liquids. Fresh juice and a soup (e.g. lentil soup) are usually served first. Then comes a nourishing main dish (e.g. rice with grilled meat) accompanied by side dishes (usually salads like fattoush and spreads like mutabbal). Sweets are very common during the evening hours too, as people tend to stay up late.
The meal in the early morning (before sunrise) is called Suhoor. During that meal it’s important that you eat foods that are rich in proteins and fibres. The meal your be filling and bring you throughout the day. Dairy products (e.g. Labneh), bread and beans (e.g. Foul Mesdames) are common. Suhoor is generally much simpler than Iftar.
Eid is the End of Ramadan
Eid al Fitr is a two-day celebration that takes place after the Ramadan ends. Same as for Ramadan, the dates for Eid al Fitr are predictions based on the Islamic lunar calendar. It begins in the evening of the last day of Ramadan.
Read more about Eid al Fitr and other Eid celebrations in my article on Eid festivals.
Ramadan gifts are an important practice at the end of the holy month. Traditionally, gifts (mostly money) were given to children. However, it has become common practice among all age groups. These gifts are exchanged between family, friends and neighbors after Ramadan (during Eid).
The most popular Ramadan gifts are:
- Food and sweets (e.g. dates, chocolates)
- Decoration (e.g. lanterns)
- Candy and other sweets (for children)
- Toys (for children)
The dates of Ramadan are based on the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 lunar months with 354 days a year. With the Islamic calendar being shorter than the Gregorian calendar (365 days), Islamic holidays such as Ramadan and Eid vary from year to year.
|Friday, 1st April 2022 – Saturday, 30th April 2022
|Wednesday, 22nd March 2023 – Thursday, 20th April 2023
|Sunday, 10th March 2024 – Monday, 8th April 2024
|Friday, 28th February 2025 – Saturday, 29th March 2025
|Tuesday, 17th February 2026 – Wednesday, 18th March 2026
A few important notes on the Ramadan dates:
- The dates of Ramadan depend on the crescent moon. Slight variations (usually not more than a day) are possible. The first day of Ramadan is usually confirmed 1-2 days prior to the anticipated start date.
- The dates of Ramadan can vary from country to country.
- Islamic holidays such as Ramadan always begin and end in the evening.
Traveling During Ramadan
Are you considering to travel to an Islamic country? While it can be a beneficial cultural experience for international travelers, it also brings some restrictions. Make sure to check out my article on visiting an Islamic country during Ramadan.