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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Muslims in Iowa and around the world are celebrating Ramadan this month by reading the Quran, praying, fasting and doing good works.
Reem Kirja, 13, an eighth-grader at Northwest Junior High in Iowa City, observes Ramadan every year with her family. Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for Muslims.
“It’s a time of reflection,” Reem said. “A time to sit with yourself and say these are the things I need to fix or strengthen.”
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. This year, Ramadan will begin in the evening of Monday, April 12, and ends in the evening of Wednesday, May 12.
Almost 2 million Muslims observe Ramadan.
Ramadan follows the lunar calendar, based on the phases of the moon. The lunar calendar is about 354 days, about 11 days shorter than the standard 365 day calendar.
So, Ramadan is on a different day each year, and moves back about 11 days each year.
Ramadan is celebrated as the month during which Muhammad received the initial revelations of the Quran, the holy book for Muslims.
Muslims believe the Quran, the holy text of Islam, was given to Muhammad through God 1,400 years ago. Muhammad lived in Saudi Arabia and is considered the founder of Islam.
There are five duties of Islam, and the first is fasting during Ramadan. Children, though, are not required to fast for Ramadan until they reach puberty.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from sunrise to sunset, meaning they do not eat, drink or even chew gum.
Muslims also try not to think bad thoughts or feel bad feelings, like anger or jealously. They also try not to gossip.
Thirteen-year-old Reem said she spends more time doing good deeds during Ramadan.
What is it like to fast?
Reem fasted for Ramadan for the first time two years ago when she was in sixth grade.
Reem said the first few days of fasting are challenging. She feels hungry, thirsty and tired during the day. But she said she fasts because it strengthens her faith.
After experiencing fasting for a couple years, Reem said it’s like riding a bike or eating with braces. It comes naturally to her.
When the sun sets, Reem breaks her fast with her family often by drinking water and eating dates, a small snack. This meal is called iftar.
The family then prays and reads the Quran before gathering for a big meal together.
“My mom makes this huge feast, and it’s awesome,” Reem said. “My mom is such a great chef.”
Breaking the Fast
Ramadan is also a celebration and a time to be joyful.
Ramadan ends in Eid al-Fitr, or the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.
Families and friends come together to eat, exchange presents and enjoy each others company, kind of like Christmas.
Wishing your friends a Happy Ramadan
You can wish Muslim friends a happy Ramadan by saying “Happy Ramadan” or “Happy Eid.”
You can also use the standard greeting, which is “Ramadan kareem” or “Eid kareem,” which means have a generous Ramadan or Eid.
Another greeting is “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Eid Mubarak,” which means have a blessed Ramadan or Eid.
Learn more about Islam’s 5 pillars
Along with fasting this month, there are four other duties of Islam: profession of faith, praying, charitable giving, and making a pilgrimage.
The profession of faith, or shahada, is the belief that there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.
This is the most fundamental expression of Islamic beliefs.
Muslims pray facing Mecca five times a day: in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, when the sun sets, and at night.
Mecca is where the Islamic religion started. All Muslims pray in the direction of a sacred Building called the Ka’bah, which is in the Great Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This is the holiest site in Islam.
Muslims have a responsibility to give to those in need with charitable giving.
Charitable giving can be donating money, necessities such as clothing and food, or time by volunteering.
The pilgrimage to Mecca is a trip every Muslim who is able must take to the holy city of Mecca, which today is in Saudi Arabia.
The pilgrimage takes place during Hajj, which is July 17 to July 22 this year.
Every year, millions of Muslims around the world make the trip to Mecca.
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