Faith

Holy Month of Ramadan: Quick Facts to Know

Six important details related to this critical Islamic faith tradition, occurring now through June 24

Many of the estimated 1.8 billion Muslims in the world are currently observing Ramadan, a religious month in the Islamic faith that is set aside for fasting.

The Koran — believed by Muslims to be the words of God as revealed to the prophet Muhammad — commands followers to set aside the month to draw closer to God.

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Here are six quick facts to know about Ramadan.

1.) Muslims observe Ramadan in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This year the dates are May 26 through June 24.

The majority of the world’s Muslim population (almost two-thirds) live in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Pew Research Center. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population, with India falling in line with the second-largest Muslim population.

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Related: Why Islam May Surpass Christianity as World’s Largest Faith

2.) Islam is the world’s second largest religion behind Christianity, but it’s the fastest-growing religion. By 2050, Muslim and Christian populations are expected to be nearly even, according to analysis from Pew Research Center.

“Unlike Lent, [when] Christians decide to give up chocolate, pizza, or nothing at all, fasting during all 29 days of Ramadan is mandatory,” the New York Daily News noted. “From dawn until sunset, all food, naughty language, smoking, fighting, and sex are strictly forbidden.”

3.) Ramadan is one of the “Five Pillars of Islam.” The others are a declaration of one’s faith; prayer; supporting the needy; and an annual pilgrimage.

4.) The month is set aside for spiritual reflections. After sunset and before dawn, Muslims can break their fast. Children, the sick, and pregnant women are among the exceptions for the mandatory Ramadan fast.

Muslims say special prayers throughout the night and day during Ramadan.

5.) “This month is associated with the sweet tooth, where most pastry shops and homes innovate in their creations of desserts,” a practicing Muslim man who lives in Amman, Jordan, noted in answer to a question on Quora.com related to Ramadan. The man added, “Among these are the baklava, which is made of phyllo dough and filled with either nuts, cream or ricotta cheese, the basbousa with semolina cake, kanafeh with shredded dough, also filled with nuts or cream, and qatayef, [a] pancake-like dough stuffed with nuts and deep-fried.”

Related: Recent ISIS Attacks Have a Sick New Theme

ISIS terrorists took cruel advantage of this. Overnight on May 29 in Baghdad, Iraq, Islamic State terrorists set off a car bomb outside an ice cream shop. Families and children were killed as they enjoyed a sweet treat during the break from Ramadan fasting.

“Fasting during all 29 days of Ramadan is mandatory for Muslims.”

6.) Brightly colored “Ramadan lanterns” decorate houses, streets and neighborhoods during the month. “The origins of the ornate lanterns date back to Egypt’s Fatimid dynasty. Children proudly flaunt their new lanterns, while singing famous Ramadan jingles,” the Middle East Eye reported.

After Ramadan ends, Muslims celebrate and have festivals, with a three-day “Eid al-Fitr” holiday.

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