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Ramadan, the sacred journey of spiritual transformation

3 March 2024
From March 11 it's Ramadan. For a month, Muslims fast, pray and seek spiritual renewal. Yaser Ellethy, director of the Centre for Islamic Theology, explains how Ramadan helps Muslims strengthen their connection with God: "It's a time of devotion, self-improvement and gratitude."

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, holds immense significance for Muslims worldwide. It is a sacred time of fasting, prayer and self-accountability, and faithful intention leading to spiritual renewal. During this month, Muslims embark on this sacred journey, seeking inner transformation and closeness to God. He forgives past sins of those who observe Ramadan with sincerity. 

Ramadan begins and ends with the sighting of the crescent moon. Its timing shifts each year due to the shorter Muslim calendar year compared to the Gregorian calendar. This year, Ramadan is from March 11 to April 9.

Ramadan encourages introspection, spiritual reflection and communal good deeds.

Spiritual and cultural

Muslims worldwide participate in Ramadan, regardless of geographical location or cultural background. The experience of fasting during long summer days or shorter winter days varies, but the spiritual essence remains constant. Ramadan is a time of devotion, self-improvement, and gratitude. It teaches empathy, resilience, and compassion. 

Beyond its religious aspect, the global observance of Ramadan represents an important cultural dimension in Muslim countries. Mosques come alive with evening prayers, fostering a sense of unity among worshippers. 

Ramadan is not merely about atonement; it is a holistic practice of self-discipline and mindfulness.

Self-restraint, fasting and prayer

Fasting during Ramadan (ṣawm) constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam, together with the declaration of faith (shahāda), the five daily ritual prayers (ṣalā), the annual charity to the needy (zakā) and the pilgrimage to Mecca (ḥajj). 

Muslims fast from dawn (fajr) until sunset (maghrib), refraining from eating, drinking, and sexual activity during daylight hours. Fasting extends beyond abstaining from food and drink; it encompasses self-restraint from immoral behavior, impure thoughts, and false words. It nourishes the soul, purifying thoughts and actions.

Believers engage in communal night prayers (tarāwīḥ/qiyām) at mosques and preferably read the whole Qurʾān. The 'Night of Power' (laylat al-qadr), usually observed on the 27th night of Ramadan, holds special significance. It commemorates the revelation of the Qurʾān.


Families, friends and groups gather for ifṭār, breaking their fast together after sunset. It is a time of joy, shared meals, and community bonding. After the end of Ramadan Muslims celebrate īd al-fiṭr (fast breaking feast) which marks the fulfilment of this special religious duty and spiritual renewal.