The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is Ramadan, a time for Muslims to focus on purifying their soul through prayer and self-sacrifice. During Ramadan, more than a billion Muslims around the world observe one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam: Fasting.
Each day of Ramadan, from sunrise to sunset, Muslims aged twelve and older traditionally practice fasting. The Arabic word for fasting literally means to "refrain," which is what is religiously proscribed - not just abstaining from eating and drinking, but also restraining every part of one's physical body.
The mouth, for example, is restrained from idle talk and gossip, while the ears are restrained from listening to obscenities. In this way, a Muslim engages his or her entire body in the physical observance of the Ramadan fast.
In addition to the fast, Ramadan is also a time to re-evaluate one's convictions and deeds. It is a time to mend troubled relationships, give charity, find forgiveness for others, and refocus on worshipping Allah (God).
According to Islamic tradition, the month of Ramadan is when Allah revealed the first verses of the Qur'an, the holy book, to the prophet Muhammad. In honor of this revelation, one thirtieth of the Qur'an is read each night of Ramadan during the evening prayer. By the end of the month, the whole Qur'an has been recited.
During Ramadan, Muslims rise before sunrise to partake in a pre-fast meal, called suhoor. Each night after sunset, they break their fast with the iftar meal. The end of the month of Ramadan is marked with the joyous festival of Eid al-Fitr, which literally means the "Festival of Breaking the Fast." During Eid al-Fitr, families celebrate with elaborate feasts and dress in their finest clothes. At the same time, they increase their efforts to give charity to the poor and make contributions to their mosques.