Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, is one of the most sacred times for Muslims. It is also the month in which it is believed that the Holy Qur'an was sent down from heaven "as a guidance for men and women, a declaration of direction, and a means of salvation."
During this month, Muslims observe a strict fast from dawn until sunset. They are not allowed to eat or drink, not even water, during these daylight hours. This fasting helps to develop skills of controlling urges and desires and to bring more sensitivity to the needs of others. At the end of the day, the fast is broken with prayer and a festive meal called an iftar. In the evening, following the iftar, it is customary to visit family and friends.
During Ramadan many Muslims go to the mosque and spend several hours praying. In addition to the five daily prayers that are part of the core of Islam, Muslims recite a special prayer called the Tarawih prayer (night prayer).
On the evening of the 27th day of the month of Ramadan, Muslims observe a special night called Layat al-Qadr sometimes referred to as the Night of Power. It is believed that on this night Muhammad first received the Holy Qur'an.
At the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, a feast that celebrates the breaking of the fast takes place. Gifts are exchanged and friends and families gather for festive meals. Special gifts are also given to the poor.