Ramadan in UAE: All you need to know about holy month

From prayers and fasting to the 'Night of Glory', here are the important facts to know about this time


Lamya Tawfik

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Thu 16 Mar 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 21 Mar 2023, 9:26 PM

Ramadan is one of the most important months in the Islamic calendar. Let’s take a closer look at the month, its significance and special practices.

Look beyond the shorter working hours and other regulations - what does the month really mean?

What is Ramadan?

The month of Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. The 12 months are: Muharram, Safar, Rabi’ al-Awwal, Rabi’ al Thani, Jumada al-Awwal, Juamda al-Thani, Rajab, Sha’aban, Ramadan (the month of fasting), Shawwal, Dhu al-Qadah and Dhu al-Hijjah (the month in which Muslims go for Haj – pilgrimage).

Even though the Islamic calendar has 12 months, being a lunar calendar, it is shorter than the Gregorian calendar – nearly 10 days shorter in fact. This is why Ramadan falls at a different time every year according to the Gregorian calendar. This year it is expected to start on Thursday, March 23. The exact start date of Ramadan may vary by a day, depending on the sighting of the moon – the Ramadan crescent.

Significance of Ramadan

Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). This verse from the Holy Quran explains the significance:

“Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide for humanity with clear proofs of guidance and the standard 'to distinguish between right and wrong'. So whoever is present this month, let them fast. But whoever is ill or on a journey, then 'let them fast' an equal number of days 'after Ramadan'. Allah intends ease for you, not hardship, so that you may complete the prescribed period and proclaim the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and perhaps you will be grateful.” (Al Baqarah, 185)

Fasting – who fasts and how?

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. As indicated in the verse above, healthy Muslims are required to fast during the month of Ramadan from the time they reach puberty. Those who are exempt from the fast are those who are ill, travelling and women during their monthly periods.

Those who miss days of fasting during the month of Ramadan are required to fast after Ramadan to make up the days of fast. If they are unable to fast after Ramadan, they can feed a poor person for each day of fasting. Islamic fasting hours are from dawn to sunset. During these hours, Muslims abstain from food, drink and other physical needs such as sexual relations for the entire month.

There are two main meals during the day in Ramadan. The first is called “Suhoor” which is taken right before dawn and the second is called “Iftar” which is the meal taken to ‘break the fast’ at sunset, with the Maghreb call to prayer. It is Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) to break the fast with dates and water.

Families and friends gather frequently for Iftar or for post Iftar get togethers. In many cultures, special dishes are prepared for the holy month.

Additional acts of worship – Taraweeh, Qyam, reading the Quran and charity

Muslims also engage in spiritual reflection, and increased acts of worship and charitable acts during Ramadan, such as reading the Quran, offering special prayers, and giving to those in need.

In addition to the five obligatory prayers (Fajr, Dhuhur, Asr, Maghreb, Isha) during the month of Ramadan, many Muslims also perform the optional Taraweeh prayers and Qyam prayer. The former takes place after the evening prayers 'Isha' and Qyam takes place right before 'Fajr' prayers, generally before Suhoor is taken.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims read the Quran and many aim to finish reading the entire Quran during the month. It is common to find Muslims on public transportation reading the Quran to complete their reading targets for the month.

Ramadan is also the month of increased charity and cultivating compassion and empathy for those in need. Many will donate money and food items to the poor.

Laylat al Qadr (Night of Glory)

During the month of Ramadan there is a night that is considered one of the most important and sacred nights in the Islamic year. Laylat Al Qadr is the night in which the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The Holy Quran describes it as a night that is better than a thousand months. The exact date of Laylat al Qadr is not known but it falls during the last 10 nights of the month of Ramadan. This is why during the last 10 nights, many Muslims will increase their worship – prayers, reading the Quran, making supplications and seeking forgiveness for their sins while seeking the mercy and blessings of Laylat al Qadr and the holy month.


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