What is Ramadan (Ramazan)?

Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year in Islamic culture. Muslims observe the month of Ramadan, to mark that Allah, or God, gave the first chapters of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad in 610. During Ramadan, Muslims fast, abstain from pleasures and pray to become closer to God. It is also a time for families to gather and celebrate.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar based on the cycles of the moon. Observances begin the morning after the crescent moon is visibly sighted, marking the beginning of the new month.

Traditionally, people searched for the slight crescent using the naked eye, which has led to the declaration of different starting times for Ramadan, due to weather or geography.

In order to have a more consistent start time for Muslims around the world, however, astronomical calculations are now sometimes used. Ramadan still does not begin until religious leaders announce that they have personally seen the crescent moon.

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Can non-Muslims get involved?

Of course. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, many iftar and sahari (night and morning meals) are open to the public across the country. Even if you have never fasted, communities will be happy to teach people their customs and traditions.

Here are a number of ways you can get involved in the monthly festivities
  • Greet devout Muslims with the phrase “Ramazan Mubarak” at the beginning of the month, the word is different from the Arabic phrase “Ramadan Kareem” which is used in Persian Gulf states. In a rough translates to “Happy Ramadan” in Persian.
  • Giving and taking “Nazri” or charity food. This tradition often happens around communities with neighbours knocking on doors offering food. Usually, people will offer a Persian soup with noodles called “Ash”.
  • Fasting along with your Muslim colleagues for a day or two and break the fast together at the time of iftar.
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