Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. 

The third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam (submission to God), fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of emphasis is given to one's spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of profound worship, reading of the Qur'an (Muslim Holy Scripture), giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds. For Muslims (followers of Islam), Ramadan is not merely a holiday, but an opportunity to gain by giving up, to prosper by going without and to grow stronger by enduring weakness. 

As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God's bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence. 

Who Fasts in Ramadan?
Fasting in Ramadan is obligatory on adults who can perform it. Sick people, nursing mothers and travelers are exempted from the fast but must make it up as they are able. 

From Dawn to Sunset
The daily period of fasting starts at the breaking of dawn and ends at the setting of the sun. In between -- that is, during the daylight hours -- Muslims totally abstain from food, drink, smoking, and conjugal relations. The usual practice is to have a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before dawn and a post-fast meal (iftar) after sunset. 

The Spirit of Ramadan
The end of the month is marked by the celebration of 'Eid-ul-Fitr' (Festival of breaking-fast). Muslims use many phrases in various languages to congratulate one another for the completion of the obligation of fasting and the 'Eid-ul-Fitr' festival. Here is a sample: 

"Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year) - Arabic

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