Abstinence during Ramadan brings Muslims to greater awareness of God's presence and helps them acknowledge their gratitude for God's provisions in their lives. It serves to heighten a sense of community among believers as Muslims around the world join together in the performance of this ritual.
The Arabic word ramadan comes from a root meaning "to be hot" and suggests that the month originally fell in the summer. But following the Islamic lunar calendar, the month of fasting can come at any time during the year.
To distinguish themselves from the Jews, Christians and pagan Arabs, Muslims measure their year by the cycles of the moon rather than the sun, so the Muslim lunar year is eleven days shorter than the Christian solar year. Muslims are forbidden to adjust their year by adding an extra month, as the Jews do to keep their lunar calendar in synch with the seasons. Hence, the months of the Muslim year do not relate to the seasons.
The Ramadan fast starts at dawn, defined as the moment when the human eye can distinguish a white thread from a black one, and ends at dusk, when the eye is again no longer able to distinguish the difference. The end of the month of Ramadan is always marked by a feast, known as the Id al-Fitr, or break-fast feast.