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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 11:35 GMT
Your questions on the war
Nicholas Watson in London asks:

Could you please explain the ideas and history behind Ramadan? How did it originate?

BBC News online journalist Kate McGeown writes:

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, and is designated a holy month of fasting. It is believed to be the month during which the Koran was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad.

Ramadan is seen as a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the trivialities of everyday life.

Throughout this period, which lasts for a lunar month, Muslims are required to fast from first light to sunset every day. During daylight hours, they must refrain from food and drink, smoking and sexual activity.

The idea behind the fast is that its adherants become spiritually stronger. It is a time of worship and contemplation

The idea behind the fast is that its adherants become spiritually stronger. It is a time of worship and contemplation.

Through the discipline of fasting, Muslims are meant to become aware of their dependence on God and on other people. Experiencing hunger leads to a compassion for the poor, and an appreciation of God's gifts to the world.


Ramadan is one of the key events in the Islamic calendar. It is one of the five pillars of Islam - the most important duties incumbent on Muslims.

The word Ramadan is related to the Arabic word "ramida", meaning intense heat and dryness. It may therefore indicate the parched sensation in the stomach as a result of thirst that people experience while fasting.

The Koran states that the month of Ramadan is that in which the Koran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein. ( Koran 2: 185)

The development of Ramadan can be traced from the direction to fast on Ashura, the tenth day of the first month of the Muslim year.

This date was originally designated a holy day by the prophet Mohammed. Some scholars believe this practice evolved from the Jewish custom of fasting on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

Later, as relations between the two religions became strained, Muhammad made Ramadan the Muslim month of fasting, while Ashura was left as a day in which fasting could also be observed on a voluntary basis - as many Muslims do today.

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