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Ramadan explained

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Ramadan explained

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Islam’s holy month is celebrated according to the lunar calendar. While traditions surrounding the month – known as Ramadan – have remained largely unchanged, the advent of social media has helped spread the word about the period. But what is it? When is it? And why is it so important to Muslims?

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a 29-30-day period in the Islamic calendar. Each month in the Islamic year begins with the sighting of the new moon, making the calendar 11 days shorter than the solar time frame used elsewhere.

The Ramadan period falls in the ninth month of the Islamic year.

Muslims use the holiday to focus on the god, Allah. Often called a ‘month of blessing,’ it is observed by over a billion Muslims worldwide. It is a time of fasting during daylight hours, prayer and abstinence from sexual activity.

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Ramadan for Sunni Muslims has a different start date to that of the Shi’ite calendar. It depends on religious authorities’ interpretations of the moon’s phases.

Phases of the moon

The Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr)

The ‘Night of Power’ (Laylat al-Qadr) occurs within the last ten days of the month. In the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, it is described as “better than a thousand months.” This is believed to be the night on which a messenger sent from the Islamic god Allah, first revealed the Qur’an to the Prophet Mohammad.

Muslims celebrate the breaking of the fast on the first day of the following month. Known as Eid al-Fitr, the festival usually lasts for three days.

Extra significance for Shi’ites

For Shi’ites, Ramadan takes on extra significance. It also marks the period during which they believe the first Imam was killed. Part of the Laylat al-Qadr is, therefore, a time of mourning for Shi’ites.

Ramadan and technology

Ramadan became closely entwined with broadcast media in the 1960s. An Egyptian television programme called Riddles (Fawaziror) set Ramadan-related puzzles to solve and offered prizes to the winners.

It grew and grew, from questions on proverbs, to other cultural riddles.

However, by 2010, it had failed to attract an audience outside Egypt and the programme’s viewing numbers started to decline.

Ramadan and social media

Some mobile apps and websites are now dedicated to following the holy month. Most of the apps offer advice on when to start and break the fast, depending on a person’s location in the world. Some also suggest prayers, or offer recipes for fast-breaking meals.

Twitter has customised the hashtags #ramadan #Iftar #eidmubarak and #eid with icons, otherwise known as ‘hashflags.’

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