Ramadan is an Islamic holy month and the ninth month of the lunar calendar. The calendar is based on the phases of the moon. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims who observe the traditions fast during the daylight hours for approximately 30 days, which means that they will not eat or drink (even water) until the sun sets each day.

Written by Dr. Francesca Pugh-Opher, Adjunct Professor in Africana Studies
Written in 2021, and updated in 2023. 

When is Ramadan?

The Islamic calendar follows the phases of the moon, commonly known as the lunar cycle. As a result, the Holy month of Ramadan falls approximately 10 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar. The Ramadan start date for 2023 is expected to begin on Wednesday, 22 March, following the sighting of the moon over Mecca. Lasting for 30 days, Ramadan will end on Friday, 21 April, with the celebratory days of Eid al-Fitr starting on Saturday, 22 April, or Sunday, 23 April.

What is the purpose of Ramadan?

Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Quran during the month of Ramadan. It is a time for spiritual reflection and self-improvement, and Muslims practice self-control, gratitude, and compassion for others who are less fortunate. Muslims focus on religious devotion by increasing daily prayers, reading the Quran, and giving to charity (zakat).

Do all Muslims fast?

All Muslims who have reached puberty are required to fast. However, every Muslim is different, and they may not practice or observe Ramadan. Some Muslims are exempt from fasting. For example, women who are pregnant, nursing, or menstruating are exempt from fasting. Muslims who are sick, traveling, or elderly and weak are exempt from fasting. Instead, they can make up their fast at another time or provide food for a person who is impoverished for each missed day of fasting. Young children are not required to fast; however, many children voluntarily start fasting around seven years old as practice.

Ramadan Routines

Muslims usually wake before dawn to eat suhoor, a pre-dawn meal, and finish their meal before sunrise. Most Muslims spend their day doing normal activities such as working, light exercise, running errands, etc., and in the evening, many families go to the mosque for Taraweeh, nightly prayers. These nightly prayers occur only during Ramadan. It is very common for Muslims to break their fast with family and friends at home or at the mosque. Ramadan is a very social time; unfortunately, due to the COVID–19 pandemic, Ramadan will look very different.

Eid al-Fitr

At the end of Ramadan…party time!! Eid al-Fitr is an Islamic holiday lasting for three days. The name of the holiday means “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.” This year, Eid (for short) will be held around May 13. Muslims celebrate the holiday with a morning prayer and breakfast and visit their family and friends, exchanging gifts. Eid is a celebration of strength and self-control as well as gratitude to God.

Ramadan and our students

Ramadan is very important for Muslims who observe the fast. Fasting, participating in classes, and studying for final exams can be challenging for students. Check on your Muslim students to ensure that they are managing their coursework, and allow for accommodations for assignments and tests, if possible. Most importantly, talk to your students about how you can support and advocate for them during Ramadan and beyond.