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Ramadan, the ninth month of the 12-month Islamic lunar calendar, begins today. A month of fasting, reflection, prayer and spiritual growth, Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims.

What is Ramadan?

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, but it’s more than just not eating and drinking. Muslims must also refrain from smoking, sexual activity, impure thoughts and words and immoral behavior. Ramadan is a time for prayer and reflection, to practice self-sacrifice and self-restraint and to purify both the soul and the body. During Ramadan, Muslims eat a small meal before dawn and break their fast by eating a date after dusk and enjoying an elaborate feast with friends and family. A lot of time is also spent reading the entire Qur’an, praying and attending mosques.

When is Ramadan?

Ramadan begins on a different day each year. In 2012, Ramadan and fasting begin on July 20.

Find out more about Islam and Ramadan at history.com.

Learn more about Ramadan, fasting, the Qur’an and other Ramadan traditions.

Sources: history.com, islam.about.com
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