Ramadan: What is it?

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month of the Lunar Islamic calendar and the only time sawm (or fasting) is obligatory for every able Muslim. Sawm is the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Wafa Faith Hallam
Wafa Faith Hallam is a Moroccan-born Arab-American. She is a writer and speaker, and the author of “The Road from Morocco.” She has been living in the United States since 1980.
Ramadan: What is it?


The Five Pillars of Islam are the five obligations that every Muslim must satisfy to live a good and responsible life. The Five Pillars consist of, in order of importance:

  • Shahadah: Reciting the Muslim profession of faith
  • Salat: Ritual prayers five times a day
  • Zakat:  Alms (or charity) to the poor and the needy
  • Sawm: Fasting during the month of Ramadan
  • Hajj:  Pilgrimage to Mecca
    • These obligations put faith into action and practice.

Muslims must fast during the whole month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset daily

With the exception of: Young children, the sick, the elderly, and women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or menstruating.  Healthy adult Muslims must give up all food and drinks, smoking, and sex.

Muslims are expected to avoid evil thoughts and deeds

  • Submit to God and Pray
  • Cultivate Self-control and discipline
  • Aspire to Spiritual Expansion
  • Practice Gratitude
  • Learn Empathy and Compassion
  • Be Generous and Charitable
  • Build Community

During Ramadan many Muslims eat a pre-dawn meal called Suhur.

At sunset, the meal that breaks the fast is called Iftar and starts with dates or water.

The evening meals during Ramadan are occasions for family and community gatherings.

The month of Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr also called the “Festival of Breaking the Fast.” It is an important religious holiday, which starts with Eid prayer followed by charity-giving and family celebrations.

Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan comes around 11 days earlier each successive year. Hence, there is no Western season associated with Ramadan.

Wishing all Muslims a Happy Ramadan!  May it be Mubarak (Blessed) and Kareem (Generous)!


Video created and produced by Wafa Hallam & Noah Allen

Music: “La illaha illa allah” (There is no god but God)

By: Manish Vyas & Dina Awwad