Muslims throughout the world begin their month long fast during Ramadan. The fasting occurs during the daylight hours, and is followed by many feasts and late night meals and festivities.
The month of Ramadan is also dedicated to prayer, and the time of fasting serves the purpose of focusing on one's "inner self" and not be concerned with worldly possessions and lifestyles. By fasting during the day, one can undergo both physical and spiritual cleansing, as daily habits such as smoking, drinking and too much caffeine are excluded. Donating to charities and doing good deeds is characteristic of Muslims during this time. Many hours are spent reciting the Quran praying in the local mosques. Fasting is an important part of the Muslim faith, and is one of the "five pillars of Islam," the others include the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity, and performing the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca."
What exactly happens throughout the day during the fast, and how is the fast broken? Those taking part in the fast, abstain from eating during the day. The fast is considered invalid, even upon taking a single sip of water. Some disagree, and feel that this is not sufficient and should not take part in gossip, arguments of any kind, or intercourse between spouses during the daytime.
To get them through the day, is the meal just before dawn known as 'suhoor' and this meal can vary depending on the diet and location. For instance, Afghans enjoy dates and dumplings which are stuffed with potatoes and leeks, while Egyptians prefer mashed fava beans mixed with cumin and olive oil. Lebanese and Arab Muslims tend to go for flatbread with herbs, yogurt and cheese early in the morning.
Following a long day of fasting, they usually break their fast, starting with water and dates as the sun goes down. Following prayers, the 'iftar' feast begins. Not only is there a lot of eating and drinking, but a lot of socializing. Each night mosques and charity organizations serve free 'iftar' dishes during the holy month.
"Laylat al-Qadr" takes place towards the end of the Ramadan fast, when Muslims gather in worship to have their prayers answered. To mark the end of the holy month is a three-day holiday Eid al-Fitr, and during this time family often recieve gifts of clothing and cash.
The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr. Children often receive new clothes, gifts and cash. Muslims will attend their Eid prayers first thing in the morning and then enjoy the day with families and friends eating together.