Ramadan is the Arabic name for the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is considered one of the holiest Islamic months

Ramadan 2023 kicks off: what is it, when is it celebrated and why is it so important?

photo_camera PHOTO/PEXELS/POK RIE - The essence of this ancient tradition, a time of introspection, remains the same

Ramadan is sacred for Muslims, involving a month of fasting (believers who participate will not eat or drink anything during daylight hours) and prayer. Each year the month in which Ramadan is celebrated changes around the lunar month. It is a ceremony of Muhammad's first revelation. The annual observance of Ramadan is considered to be one of the Five Pillars of Islam (profession of faith, prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca) and lasts 29 to 30 days, from the crescent moon until the next crescent moon. 

Fasting is from sunrise to sunset and is fard (obligatory) except for chronically ill adults, those travelling, pregnant or breastfeeding women, diabetics and during menstruation. The first meal must be eaten before dawn and is called suhur, and the evening feast is called iftar.  Ever since the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with dates and a glass of water, Muslims have eaten dates at both suhur and iftar. Dates, a Middle Eastern staple, are rich in nutrients, easy to digest and provide the body with sugar after a long day of fasting. Although a fatwa states that Muslims living in countries with midnight sun or polar night would have to follow Mecca time, it is common practice to follow the time of the nearest country where night can be differentiated from day.


The beginning of the holy month in 2023 derives from the sighting of the crescent moon. In Morocco, the new moon can be seen with the naked eye after sunset on Wednesday 22 March, so the first Ramadan is Thursday 23 March. The astronomical new moon occurred on Tuesday, March 21 at 5:23 p. m. UT. On that day, the moon could not be seen. On March 22, 2023, the crescent was barely visible in the Far East and some European countries. Although it could be seen noticeably in Africa and America. On 23 March 2023, the crescent can be seen in all countries of the world.

During the fast certain duties must be preserved and fulfilled. Before the midnight feast one should take suhur which is a small food taken before the prayer, delay the fast immediately after sunset, pray at the instant of breaking the fast, abstain from anything that contradicts the morality of keeping the fast, use siwak during the fast, be generous and increase the practices in the last 10 days as the Prophet did.


The arrival of the month of Ramadan brings with it one of the most important and special events, both real and symbolic, for a Muslim: Laylat al-Qadar, The Night of Decree. It is the night on which Muhammad received the first revelation of the Quran, and thus began his mission as a prophet and messenger of Allah. This fact alone is a cause of great rejoicing for Muslims. Several Muslim-majority nations have a personalised greeting in their native languages. "Ramadan Mubarak' and 'Ramadan Kareem' are common greetings exchanged during this period, wishing the recipient a blessed and bountiful month, respectively.

Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are encouraged to donate to charity, harden their relationship with God and show kindness and patience. During this month, believers also head to the mosque for an additional night prayer called Taraweeh. This only takes place during Ramadan. After the last day of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate its end with Eid al-Fitr ('feast of breaking the fast'), which begins with communal prayers at dawn. During the three-day festival, participants gather to pray, eat, exchange gifts and pay their respects to deceased family members. Carnivals and large prayer gatherings are also held in some cities.


Moroccans use this celebration as an opportunity for an examination of conscience, the purpose of which is to meditate on all the bad things that have come up during the year, to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. Whatever Ramadan participants have planned for their traditional gatherings, both suhur and iftar, the spirit of this centuries-old tradition will remain the same: a time for self-reflection.