Ramadan is finally here. And as you will hear about it on a daily basis, or read about it online, there are some things which you may miss. Here are the 6 things that you should know about this holly month.

1. What does the word ‘Ramadan’ mean?

The word ‘ramadan’, coming from the Arabic root word ar-ramad meaning extreme heat, means ‘scorched earth’. As Muslims fast during a whole month, they experience what it is like to live in dryness and still, resist.

2. A love story between Ramadan and the New Moon

Ramadan is based in the lunar calendar and begins with the hilal, which means ‘new moon’, in the 9th month of each year. However, Ramadan falls earlier each year, as the lunar cycle moves backwards compared to the Gregorian calendar. When Ramadan happens to be in summer, the days are hotter and longer, which makes fasting much harder.

3. Ramadan has the holiest night of the year

One of the most sacred things for Muslims, is Laylat Al-Qadr, which means the ‘Night of Power’. It is the anniversary of the night during which Allah (God) revealed the Qur’an (Holly Book of Islam) to the Prophet Muhammad. Depending on the country, this holly night happens to be in the last 10 days of Ramadan, however, the 27th night is the most widely celebrated date. ‘The grand night is better than a thousand months’, states the Qur’an.

4. Fasting periods vary

As soon as the sun is no longer visible on the horizon of their respective countries (as the daily Maghrib prayer begins), Sunni Muslims, from all over the world, may break their fast. As for Shi’ites, they wait until the last rays of light disappear from the sky.

5. You have a date, every evening

During this month, most Muslims break their fast with a date. As their bodies can develop health problems such as headaches and low blood sugar, among others, dates are an excellent source of fibre, sugar, magnesium, potassium, and have carbohydrates which help the body maintain its power. ‘An iftar without dates would feel very strange to all the Muslims I know’, said cooking blogger Yvonne Maffai. ‘It would be like Thanksgiving without a turkey’, she continued.

6. Give and forgive

Ramadan, however, is not only about fasting and praying. It is a way of life that guarantees peace and coexistence. During this month, Muslims are required to help others, regardless of who they are and what they believe in, and let go of any hatred in their hearts. ‘The real fasting is not the fasting of the tongue and stomach. … the real fasting is the fasting of the heart’, said Imam Al Ghazali.

Many people are dying of hunger while others are filling their stomachs every evening. This is not what Islam, or any other religion stands for. Enjoy Ramadan, but remember, with all the food at your table, some are looking at your least favourite dish and wishing it was theirs.