By Amal Abou-Eid

    The excitement and anticipation mounts as the holy month of Ramadan draws near. When does it begin? We must wait to sight the moon. The Islamic months begin once a new crescent moon is sighted.

    So, what exactly happens during Ramadan? Why do Muslims look forward to a month of restrictions on food and drink?

    Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, sacrifice and devotion to God. Often referred to as The Month of Mercy, Ramadan is eagerly anticipated by Muslims around the world.

    The Islamic months are based on the lunar calendar and, as such, begin approximately 10 days earlier every year. Muslims seek out the sighting of a new crescent moon to mark the beginning of this special month.

    During Ramadan, Muslims wake up in the middle of the night to eat a breakfast called Suhoor. This is the meal they eat before they start fasting for the day – at approximately 5am. The food and drink consumed during Suhoor will nourish them until sunset. They will not eat or drink anything from the moment the call for the morning prayer (Fajr) is heard until the call for the sunset prayer (Maghrib) is heard in the evening – at approximately 6pm.

    Acts of worship, such as performing prayers, donating to charity, recitation of the holy Quran, increase during Ramadan. Muslims use this month to reflect and connect with their purpose and God. It is also a time for family and community gatherings. Muslims host iftar dinners for their family, friends and community and often break fast together in the hope of strengthening ties and fostering unity.

    Ramadan often lasts for 29-30 days – depending on the cycle of the moon – and is followed by an Eid Al-Fitr celebration with food, sweets, family and friends.

    Ramadan 2021 in Australia will begin the evening of Monday, 12 April.

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