The date for the start of Ramadan is slightly different each year, depending on the position of the moon. Once Ramadan starts, Muslims should not eat or drink or have sexual activities between sunrise and sunset. This usually continues for thirty days, but sometimes twenty-nine days.
Fasting is supposed to teach Muslims about patience and spiritual things. It is a time for Muslims to think about how the poor and homeless suffer without lots of food, it helps Muslims to be more obedient, and less greedy. During Ramadan, Muslims ask to be forgiven for their sins, and they pray for help in stopping them from doing bad things. Muslims believe Ramadan is a month when God shows himself to humans, because it was the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It was also the month in which the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary took place.[Qur'an 2:185]
Not everyone has to observe Ramadan. Children do not have to fast. They should start when they reach the age of puberty, so long as they are healthy. People who are travelling long distances do not have to fast. Pregnant women do not have to if they think it might harm their unborn baby. Sometimes sportsmen do not observe the fast, although there are disagreements about this. For example, the Olympic Games in 2012 will fall in the middle of the holy month. This will make it very difficult for the sportsmen if they cannot eat or drink during daytime.
When the sun goes down and it gets dark the Muslim people will start eating again (this is called "breaking the fast"). This meal is known as Iftar. There are often big meals enjoyed together by lots of Muslims. . Sometimes markets open after Iftar and stay open during the night.
- The Independent 16 Aug 2010 p.3 "No fasting, no football"
- Ramadan: Muslims feast and fast during holy month accessed 8-11-2011