O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous.

(Fast) a certain number of days; and (for) him who is sick among you, or on a journey, (the same) number of other days; and for those who can afford it there is a ransom: the feeding of a poor person – but whoever does good of his own accord, it is better for him: and that you fast is better for you if you did but know.

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion between right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, (let him fast the same) number of other days. Allah intends for you ease, He intends not hardship for you; and (wants) that you should complete the period, and to glorify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be grateful.

The Qur’an, chapter 2, verses 183–185

Fasting is a virtuous act of worship, compulsory (with some exceptions) during the month of Ramadan, and optional at other times. Muslims fast by abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations from dawn to sunset.

There are many benefits to fasting, as it also requires us to make the effort to give up bad habits, such as harsh speech, and to think about the food we eat. It is a time to become more conscious of our Creator, and to try and become a better person.

In Ramadan, our sense of community increases, as does our attention to worship. Here at the East London Mosque, congregations increase during this month. Every day over 500 people come to the mosque to break fast together.

There is more to the month of Ramadan than fasting. There a special, optional prayers in the evening after the last of the compulsory prayers, known as Tarawih. In our mosque they last about two hours, and are led by Imams who recite the Qur’an very beautifully. Yet even though they are not compulsory, and come at the end of a long day of fasting, still thousands attend our mosque, and other mosques, every single night.

One of the last ten nights is known as the Night of Decree (or Night of Power):

Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree.
And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree?
The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.
Therein descend the angels and the Spirit (Gabriel) by permission of their Lord for every matter.
Peace it is until the appearance of dawn.

The Qur’an, chapter 97

The exact night is not known, but from the sayings of Prophet Muhammad  (peace be upon him) we know it is on one of the odd-numbered nights.

The beginning and end of the month of Ramadan depend on the sighting of the new Moon. The first day after Ramadan is one of the two days of Eid, namely Eid al-Fitr – a day of celebration and gratitude to Allah, which begins with special Eid prayers in the morning that the whole family attends.

Next topic: Hajj & Umrah