Most people have heard of Ramadan even if they know little else about Islam, and many have experienced Ramadan during a holiday abroad. It has something of a festival season about it where Muslims live in larger numbers, and this is because Ramadan impacts people in their communal routines, and because it lasts a long time. In fact, Ramadan is the name of a month. It was named in ancient Arab calendars and takes its name from the “scorching heat” of stones under the desert sun – it continued as the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. Ramadan is a most special and blessed month for Muslims because of the religious practice of fasting, and because of its connection with the Qur’an.

During Ramadan, healthy and able Muslims fast. They do so without food and drink from dawn to sunset, during which time they focus on self-restraint, controlling impulses and remembering those without food. The aim is to be a more conscious human being – conscious of the welfare of others, of one’s character flaws and of God.

It was during Ramadan when Muslims believe Muhammad received a visitation from the Angel Gabriel (“Jibreel”) conveying ‘speech’ from God, which Muhammad would then recite. This was the moment Muhammad was appointed “The Messenger of God”, and the beginning of verses that make up the Qur’an (“The Recital”). Muslims read the Qur’an more frequently during Ramadan, and try harder to live according to its ideals. God also promises greater forgiveness and mercy for people’s sins or wrongs, and Muslims pray more fervently during Ramadan. Muslims also donate more in charity during Ramadan than at any other time. Consequently, Ramadan is also referred to informally as the Month of the Qur’an, the Month of Mercy and the Month of Charity.

During the last 10 days of Ramadan, Muslims try even harder to give their devotion a final push, with some nights spent in remembrance and prayer. Ramadan culminates with a large communal prayer of thanksgiving on the festival of Eid.