What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic year, with many of the 1.6 billion Muslims living around the world fasting to mark the occassion.
The Prophet Mohammed explained: “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.”
Muslims believe that God revealed the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed on the 27th day of Ramadan (Laylat Al Qadr, or the Night of Power).
Throughout the month many will recite the holy book, pray, and contemplate their relationship with God.
Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?
Fasting (sawm in Arabic) is one of the five key pillar of Islam, along with prayer (salat), charity (zakat), faith (shahadah) and making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
All adult Muslims are required to fast, with exemptions for pregnant women, nursing mothers, women who are menstruating and the sick and elderly.
Young, prepubescent children are not expected to fast, however some will choose to do so for half a day to train their bodies.
Those who are fasting will abstain from food, liquids and sex, from dawn until dusk.
Muslims will wake early to eat and pray before sunrise, and will break the fast after sunset with a communal meal (Iftar).
When is the first day of Ramadan?
Ramadan 2017 began yesterday evening (Friday, May 26).
The holy month changes dates each year due to the Muslim calendar, which follows the movements of the moon and is around 11 days shorter than the standard Gregorian calendar.
This means that the first day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, moves backwards by around 11 days each year.
So while fasting takes place in the summer this year – meaning longer days and higher temperatures, sometimes Ramadan can fall in the winter – with shorter, more comfortable days.
When is the last day of Ramadan?
Ramadan 2017 ends on the evening Saturday, June 24. This year, Ramadan lasts for 29 days.
The following day is Eid al-Fitr, an important day in the Islamic calendar when Muslims celebrate the end of the fast.
It is not to be confused with Eid ul-Adha, a separate holiday which this year falls in September.