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If you work in the localization industry and handle Middle Eastern languages, you quickly become familiar with Ramadan as it is the time of year when it is notoriously difficult to find an available Arabic translator. This year, Ramadan began on July 20 and will continue through August 18.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and a time of spiritual reflection and increased devotion and worship. It is also the month believed to be when the Holy Qur’an was sent by God to the great Prophet Muhammad. There are a billion Muslims around the world, with approximately 8 million located in North America.
At many mosques during Ramadan, about one thirtieth of the Qur’an is recited each night in prayers known as tarawih. By the end of Ramadan, the complete scripture will have been recited.
During this month, from dusk to dawn, Muslims obstain from eating, drinking, sex, smoking and absolutely anything else that would draw their attention away from service. It is believed that fasting (sawm) teaches a number of virtues, including modesty and patience. Fasting means that there is no eating or drinking while the sun is shining.
This type of fasting usually begins at 12 years of age for a Muslim. Fasting is considered to be one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The others being shahada (confession of faith), salat (prayer), zakat (almsgiving), and hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca).
Fasting serves to keep the focus off of the body and its needs and desires and place the focus on one’s faith and otherworldly, spiritual needs.
Every part of the body must be restrained. One cannot take part in gossip (restraint of the tongue). The eyes must not look at obscene things. The hand must not touch anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In this way, every part of the body observes the fast.
At the end of Ramadan, a celebration known as Eid-ul Fitr (the Festival of Fast Breaking) takes place. During this time, the fasting comes to an end. This year, this will take place on August 19.
Ramadan is a time of self-restraint, a time to cleanse one’s body and soul and to devote time to the worship of God.