Why Muslims Celebrate Ramadan

TIME

Wednesday evening is expected to mark the beginning of Ramadan, a month of sunrise-to-sunset fasting for nearly 1.6 billion Muslims across the world. But what exactly is Ramadan? Here’s a quick guide:

What is Ramadan?

For Muslims, Ramadan is a holy month dedicated to prayer, Quran recitation, introspection and fasting during the sunlight hours. But the Arabic word for fasting—sawm—doesn’t only refer to abstaining from food or drink. It translates literally to “refrain,” and encompasses abstinence from food, drink, having sex, and all evil thoughts and deeds in the interest of self-purification. Muslims observing the holy month break the daily fast with an evening meal called Iftar, often beginning with a few sips of water or something sweet, like an odd number of dates.

What’s the religious significance of Ramadan?

Ramadan is believed to be the holiest month of the year within Islam, and the month in…

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