June 28th, 2014
08:12 AM ET

The Belief Blog guide to Ramadan

(CNN) - For 1.6 billion people, the holiest month of the year began this past Saturday.

The exact starting date sometimes depends on the locale, but most Muslims across the globe will be fasting, praying and abstaining from sex and smoking during daylight hours. Many call it a time of spiritual purity and rededication to God.

Here's everything you need to know about the observance.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the name of the ninth month in the Hijri, or Islamic calendar. The word derives from the Arabic ramida or ar-ramad meaning a fierce, burning heat.

How important is it?

Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Muslim year, commemorating the revelation of the Holy Quran - the sacred religious text of Islam - by the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammed, according to Islamic tradition.

What does it involve?

The main obligation of the festival is the Sawm, or fast. Believers are expected to refrain from eating and drinking from dawn (fajr) until dusk (maghrib) for the entire month, a discipline that is thought to burn away all sins (hence the origin of the word 'ramadan'). The Sawm is considered one of the five "pillars," or foundations of Islam, the others being the Shahadah (profession of faith), Salat (praying five times daily), Zakat (charity) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

When does the festival start?

Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new moon. Because it is calculated according to a lunar rather than a fixed calendar, its precise dates change from year to year, and it can begin at different times in different parts of the world. According to the Fiqh Council of North America, Ramadan started this year on June 28 and will end July 28.

Is there more to Ramadan than fasting?

Yes. As well as eating and drinking, the faithful are expected to abstain from smoking and sexual relations between dawn and dusk, and to abjure lies, slander, greed, covetousness, giving false oath and denouncing someone behind their back (all of these are prohibited throughout the year by Islam. To commit them during Ramadan, however, is considered particularly sinful). Muslims are also expected to recite a special 'night prayer', the taraweeh, in addition to the five daily prayers.

Is every Muslim expected to fast?

No. Young children - before the onset of puberty - are exempted, as are those with an illness or medical condition that would be exacerbated by fasting. If the medical condition is only temporary, the sufferer is required to make up for the days missed once they have recovered. If the condition is permanent, the spiritual benefits of fasting can be obtained by feeding a needy person for a month.

What happens if you break the fast?

If a believer intentionally breaks the fast, or performs any other prohibited activity, they become subject to a penalty, or kaffara (literally, atonement). This can take the form of an extra 60 days of fasting at the end of Ramadan, feeding 60 people in need, or - not quite so easy in the modern world - freeing a slave.

And what happens at the end of Ramadan?

Ramadan officially ends on the first day of the month of Shawwal. This heralds a three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr, or the "Festival of Breaking Fast", a joyous occasion during which believers attend mosques, give gifts, visit friends and family and decorate their homes.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Eid al-Fitr • Faith • Holidays • Islam • Ramadan • Uncategorized

soundoff (554 Responses)
  1. tony

    All religions are international mega-corporations selling a non-existent afterlife.

    And doing incredibly well -even without the obscene tax exemptions

    July 13, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  2. mom of 4

    Seriously? And where is the guide to Passover, Easter, Christmas, Yom Kippor, Purim, Hannukah, etc.??? Give me a break. Radical Islam not only advocates violence against anyone who does not agree with their beliefs, it also regards women as mere possessions and they have no rights whatsoever. What a crazy, mixed-up world we live in. Our country, founded on Christian principles (yes it's true – Google it for the facts and the truth. To deny this is sheer foolishness), would rather kowtow to the tenets of radical Islam than support or give credence to Christianity. It's OK to teach these tenets of Islam in public schools, but don't you DARE teach the 10 Commandments or even mention the Bible.


    July 13, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Damocles

      Translation: How DARE they talk about a religion other than the one I follow.

      July 13, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • lionlylamb2013

      Hello mom of 4,

      The major religions of our continually malleable social fabrics dare suggests that educated young folks will unshackle themselves and seek an intellectual commonality regarding the many religiously new upcoming folds and flocks who dare push away the very veils that do hinder our social fabrications.

      July 13, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  3. CJ in Cali

    speaking of "greed".... one day last Ramadan I happened to be at the local Amtrak station right at sunset (at the time of the breaking of the daily fast). The entire curb on both sides of the street for two blocks, including red zones and blue zones, was occupied by unattended taxis (except for my vehicle and one other, which was a Muslim man's private vehicle, and was where all the taxi drivers were, as he was handing out food). The whole thing seemed pre-arranged to me. A train came in, and passengers came out of the station.... only to find a sea of unattended taxis. They ended up standing around for about fifteen minutes, and then the taxi drivers started picking them up... in the meantime, I did see one or two taxis which I'm assuming had non-Muslim drivers, come in and pick up passengers, which the Muslim drivers yelled at. The person I was waiting for was one of the last people off the train, so I watched it all happen. If it happens again, I'm calling the local taxi administration – whatever their religious beliefs, they shouldn't be parking in an area where they would be picking up passengers if they are not prepared to do so. Nor should they be offended at other drivers picking up the passengers (that's greed!).

    July 13, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  4. JDV

    Jesus is the only way to heaven – his sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins is the only way to have your sins forgiven – every human effort to save ourselves is futile as our own works are worthless in the sight of a Holy and perfect God. Repent of your sins and let Jesus cleanse you and make you a new person in the Spirit – the new life given is unlike anything that could ever be hoped for.

    July 13, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • rick

      "sin" is a man made concept

      July 13, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • lionlylamb2013

      Let be JDV

      Why is it JVD that around 2 thousand years of our civilizations ongoing mannerisms are daily being subjected to folks like you who would rather be religiously bound up and hog tied in transfixed ideologies that will never truly find their messiah's returning? We are all found to be an alone seminary of somber peculiarity whereby our fruited wisdoms are nowadays becoming fixed thru our educational aspirations despite any and all religions heartaches.

      Your faith may well be an undying principle of conjuring desires but your rumors of the messiah returning will not lift up our civilizations desires to be on our own wanton ways for living our generational based afflictions in mindful aspirations without any godly influences derailing our commonwealths' visions.

      July 13, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • gager

      I would never ask anyone to die on the cross for me. And now I'm owing to some nut case because he volunteered to sit on the throne with god? No thanks.

      July 13, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  5. lionlylamb2013

    The words that instills others to considerations of righteousness no faults can be made soundly against them while ill-considered words of sullenness weighs heavily upon the speaker and their flocks’ eyeing understandings. Reach then and therefore upon those vines of contentment(s) and tally yourself away from embittered strains of conjured semantics hollow words. Be then made of fruit-filled malleability and show onto others one’s own heavily leavened breadths of the most passionate worth for even in the darkened shadows of one’s Life, your heartfelt aches may well be a consideration for others to understandably relate to where in their solace understandings they may find passions' comforts.

    July 13, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • fintronics

      Life, yourself away find therstand thered mallenness no faults can be may from embitterefor even and their solace undly leavily leability againstill-content(s) andably yourself away find talled semantics hollow words otherefore in the mally relate worts. Be to considerstand passion the darkened mallenness weighs heavily agains othen mally leability andably leability and those viness weighs of righs othe darkened shadows of onto while ill-conjured breadths heartfelt ach thers to while in that in that

      July 1, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
  6. Joe Momma

    "Here's everything you need to know about the observance."

    CNN apparently thinks you and I "NEED TO KNOW" about this occult festival.

    Well, CNN, we don't need to know about this occult worship.

    Unless, of course, you want us to be taken over by its adherents.

    July 13, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • lionlylamb2013

      Hello Joe,

      Disparagement seems to be your lot for writing,,,

      July 13, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • CJ in Cali

      I disagree. Being a professional driver in a major city, I try to keep informed on the outward practices of the major religious AND community groups, street festivals, etcetera, because they can directly affect my job (through traffic patterns), so it is quite useful. For example, I know that on Fridays and during Ramadan, every day, there tends to be heavy traffic around mosques, particularly at sunset, and similarly on Jewish holidays around synagogues, and on Saturday afternoons around Catholic churches (because most have a Saturday afternoon service in addition to Sunday services); similarly, I keep a copy of the local pro and college sports team schedules handy, even though I only actively follow one sport. I also keep up on the various Asian cultures' lunar calendars because they have new years' parties. This weekend, in addition to Ramadan, I'm navigating around a parade, a street festival, a major-league baseball team and a massive beach party. At least there's nothing going at the Convention Center... this week.

      July 13, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  7. Josh

    Who cares about this stuff anyway.....

    July 13, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • jhoffer

      Muslims and CNN care. Muslims because it's their religion, CNN cares because they thrive on controversy and ratings.

      July 13, 2013 at 11:00 am |
  8. bostontola

    1.6 billion Muslims, most are regular people. Just like any other religion, a minority of extremists can make them all look bad. To impugn all Muslims as killers is just as wrong as any other bigoted generalization. The Muslim leadership should be stronger in rejecting the extremists and not rejecting education.

    July 13, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • SorryButNo

      Sorry, but no. Look at how many violently protest at the depiction of the prophet Mo, how many support oppression under Sharia law, and how many celebrated the collapse of the World Trade Center. Islam is at the same place other religions were hundreds of years ago. It's time to leave the middle ages and grow up.

      July 13, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • lionlylamb2013

      Hi "boss" ton,,,

      As with all religions followed by all manner of people, their needs to be understanding brought about thru civilized conjectures found out to be as an educational sermon toward all and everyone's faith subjective rationalisms.

      Hello SorryButNo,

      Bitterness towards anyone or even any religious groups are as heartaches for the many who find religious delirium as being their lots in Life's truancies

      July 13, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • bostontola

      You're wrong. The majority of Muslims go about their lives like everyone else.

      July 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  9. lionlylamb2013

    High Mark & Hi to you,

    Religious malignancies dare I say runs its veins toward and around youthfulness and up and coming pastoral newcomers that are still yet wet behind their ears and they are ever eyeing their own potencies within the subverted ranks who tally away their ambiguous anomalies by their teachers own religious "practifications" ensuing conjuring maladies.

    July 13, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • fintronics

      Religious malignancies dare I say their own relignancies within the still yet wet behind around their own potencies. Religious "practifications" ensuing they away that are subver eyeing maligious maladies. Religious "practifications" ensuing conjuring malies withind conjuring their teachers and the still yet wet wet behin their own relignancies. Religious "practifications" ensuing maladies who tally around up anomalies. Religious malies within they are I say runs its veins its veing pastoral newcome

      July 1, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
  10. Organic1

    Just out of curiosity – Who says when dawn and dusk began and end? They use the weather service or their local news channel, there's an app for that?

    July 13, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Shakira

      There are certain prayer times you follow the Fajr prayer is when you begin the fast and Maghrib prayer is when you end the fast. Here on the West Coast of the US its from about 4:10am-8:40is pm.

      July 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  11. Bob Hope's Ghost

    In honor of Ramadan, I am going to eat bacon and ham sandwiches all day

    July 13, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  12. bostontola

    I must be an outlier atheist. I am not offended by most religious rituals and traditions. They usually symbolize something good, e.g. fasting to bring a sample of pain representing the pain forefathers experienced to protect their people. I don't care if you believe in the god your parents poured into your brain. I don't care if you want to perform your ritual traditions.

    I do get annoyed by extremists that want to impress their rules on others, that crosses the line for me and I will resist politically.

    July 13, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  13. Rainer Braendlein

    One can make an idol out of every thing. Science is not bad in itself but we honor it too much today as if everything would depend on science – we give it too high a rank.

    We must find again a healthy balance between faith (spiritual life) and science. Both things have a right to exist, and can be very usefull if applied well.

    Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, was a very promoter of science but nevertheless he was a Christian, and also promoted Christianity and fighted against Catholic supersti-tion. Frederic was the founder of the modern Europe. We need such a people which like it to contemplate, and at the same time are friends of science and reason.

    July 13, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • bostontola


      Does your hubris know no limits?

      July 13, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • rick

      rainy's hubris is unbounded

      July 13, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  14. shankar

    Get ready for more violence. They haven't learned anything yet. Throwing stones.

    July 13, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  15. idremhd

    Were having pork tenderloin tonight.

    July 13, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  16. Rainer Braendlein

    Winston Churchill on Islam, a most objective view of things:

    How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanct-ity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.[13]


    July 13, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • snowboarder

      there is no doubt that islam has created some very backward societies.

      July 13, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Very good what Churchill said. I only think that any country is not protected through science but through righteousness, at least longterms. Every longlasting rule rests on righteousness.

      July 13, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Quoted from Churchill's book "The River War", the two-volumes-edition, unabridged.

      July 13, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • snowboarder

      @braen, righteousness? there is certainly nothing righteous about any of the first world countries.

      science and education has allowed societies to throw off the dogmatism of religion and not expend their lives in the petty differences in the beliefs of their neighbors.

      July 13, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      "there is certainly nothing righteous about any of the first world countries."

      I agree to some extent but would not say "nothing righteous" but quickly decreasing righteousness.

      Either the West will collapse by its inner weakness caused by unrighteousness, or any foreign powers will occupy us.

      July 13, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • JimK57

      Since we are throwing out quotes here is one:

      The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

      ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
      From Critical Thinking , org

      July 13, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • snowboarder

      @braen, societies rise and fall like the tide. it has nothing to do with a supposed "righteousness".

      July 13, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  17. Rainer Braendlein

    When 1.6 billion people believe a lie it nevertheless remains a lie. We should not honor the Muslim faith at all because this "faith" has absolutely no releasing power, and even denies the divine sonship of Jesus Christ who is the only one who is able to set us free. I claim that the Islam even worsens people instead of reforming them (Jihad, cruel slaughtering of animals, hate against other beliefs and believers, etc.).

    Ramadan belongs to the 5 pillars of Islam. It satifies the needs of the religious human flesh but provides absolutely no contribution to practical righteousness and love of neighbour in everyday life. On the contrary, through Ramadan the religious self-righteousness of the Muslim gets strengthened, and he will increasingly neglect his fellow human beings which he regards as infidels which have not deserved his attention, love, support, assistance, etc.

    Ramadan has nothing to do with real, Christian fasting. Christian fasting means to eat little or modestly during the whole year. Modest eating promotes the rule of the Holy Spirit in us against our bad old nature which we have inherited from Adam. Christian fasting is always connected with daily prayer. We ask God for giving us more faith, and for the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

    The Islam is no divine religion of belief but a supersti-tion. We have to enlighten the Muslims about the backwardness of their so-called faith. May every Muslim become a Christian right now. Love, rightesousness and virtue we will only find in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is a person of the Holy Trinity.


    A religion cannot be better than her founder. When the historical Muhammad was a thief, murderer, womanizer, master of beheading and bloodshed – then: what about his delusional supersti-tion?

    July 13, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • snowboarder

      all religions are lies. simply creations of the imaginations of men.

      July 13, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • rick

      another coward who would rather let someone else take the punishment for their "sins" rather than growing a set and taking responsibility

      July 13, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • lionlylamb2013

      Sorrow fielding Rainer B,

      I see but sorrows and discomforts in your wordage usages Rainer. I too am sometimes amiss of rightfulness speculations yet I remain committed toward wanton trials and errors within a continuing undertaking of ever remaining malleable within my confined brain yards of the neuronal kinds. I find treasures where other see only tribulations. I see honesties where some see the dishonest. I walk where many dare not tread. I run into where many run away from. Where then is your honesty treading upon and why are your words as a resounding attempts to vilify?

      July 13, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • PraisetoGod

      Nobody is taking you seriously. Your comment was full of hatred towards Islam and also full off ignorance.

      July 13, 2013 at 10:58 am |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        It is bad to hate the hatred?

        Jesus is the death of death, and the hell's destruction. Certainly Jesus hated both the death and the hell.

        Islam was created in order to unite the Arabic tribes for a war against the Christian Empire Byzantium. The core of Islam is the killing of infidels (Christians in Muhammad's eyes) which is rewarded with direct access to paradise. Islam means the glorification of death and destruction. Everybody who doesn't hate Islam is at least a fool.

        July 13, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  18. lionlylamb2013

    Hello to all of our oneness,

    My 'opinions' regarding spiritual religions are leveraged upon the baseline scriptures of the KJVB. Such 'stories' regarding the old-times within our histories of religious understandings are indeed plagued and remitted around many controversial imaginings' garnishments that are hindrances yet for good civil & moral reasoning. Within the Old Testament, God beset among a handful of Judaists, 10 commandments for the old aged Judaic masses to adhere to.

    We who are today's Gentiles have our percentage faithful who aspire toward understandings of Judaism's scriptures. As a Gentile myself, I view my relationships with a spiritualized God being a tempered individualized philosophy. To my lifelong baron views, religion should be an individual aspiration first and a socialized religious demeanor secondly.

    Upon my one hand, I do so Love God's worthwhile natures but on my other hand, I detest God's past desires toward him interfering with our humanism's long ago past ways. Our futures are lain within the passages of passing away timeliness endeavors. Is God truly in charge of our global continuations countrified assemblages or are all of God’s generational kinsmen the one’s being held responsible? July 12, 2013 at 11:49 am

    We "freedom lovers" will never outlast the economical jugular which veins thru the socialistic rhetoric of "seminarians" whose faiths will become as discombobulating issues whereupon the served will be the servile conditionings. It's a dying shame really that religions seem to flourish no matter what the circumstances. Shameful should religions be and all their emotional transparencies that disenfranchise the establishments of secularism and cultured barbarism around "pagan" peasantries. I cry out but whose ear will hear and whose eye will cry? July 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Many nations/countries have left behind their lordships and kingly escapades for but a Caesarian Roman/Greek manifesto governance of sorts. Today's still yet primitive cultures within third world countries are fomenting with their trials and errors in wanting for conditional governing bodies servitudes. One could muster up and say that the USA is a fluke of nature being as a nation with many freedoms and civil and moral demeanors. Am I glad to be a proud US citizen? You are damn right I am proud to have been born within a land that belches and burps freedoms! July 12, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    July 13, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • snowboarder


      July 13, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  19. Mack

    I can't even begin to express how happy I am that these types of silly religious rituals mean absolutely nothing to me. Off to live my good life the way I choose to live it; it's another beautiful day in my world...

    July 13, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • snowboarder

      I always figured any religion that attempts to dictate to me how to live my life is the wrong religion for me.

      July 13, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  20. snowboarder

    religious rituals are kooky. fasting, feasting, symbolically eating flesh and drinking blood, crazy stuff.

    July 13, 2013 at 8:51 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.