Revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Quran is a guide to mankind for salvation, light, and discernment between good and evil. It is a fountain head that repeatedly reminds man of the purpose of his creation and that keeps him safe from error and deviation. When we listen to and follow its teachings, it is a basic source from which we never stray. This guide to salvation and criteria for distinguishing between right and wrong began to be revealed in the month of Ramadan and was communicated to man over a period of twenty-three years by means of Allah's Messenger. In this respect, the month of Ramadan has a very important place in the world of faith for Muslims. This month does not mean just fasting. It is a month when a believer spends more time with the Quran, which Allah revealed for him, and when he examines himself in view of Quranic teachings. This meeting and facing himself becomes a means for a person to open his heart to his Lord, to feel regret for his mistakes and ask for forgiveness, and to discipline his thoughts through his personal attitude and behavior. Thus, this month becomes a period of purification for a believer. Also this month does not just remain as a period of questioning and purification for a believer; in this month he also gives attention to his social surroundings and tries to find and interact with the indigent. The charity and poor tax given this month allow the believer to meet up with people in need and share their difficulties. Similarly, iftar (time to break fast) dinners become a vehicle for coming together not only with family, friends and relatives, but with poor and needy people as well. The social atmosphere that ensues prepares an environment for the gaps between social strata to close and for people to mix and feel empathy for one another.
The essential thing in Ramadan is to perceive Ramadan in this functional way. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) constantly pointed this out in his words and actions related to Ramadan and worship to be performed this month. For example, the Prophet did not approve of those who did not control their thoughts and feelings even though they were fasting, and he emphasized that they were only remaining hungry and thirsty. He broke his fast with friends and the poor and needy. He also gave charity more importance this month. In addition, the Prophet Muhammad gave Quran training special importance during Ramadan and he repeated what had been revealed to him every Ramadan. He also gave importance to personal meditation and contemplation, and he went into retreat during the final days of Ramadan. During retreat he refrained as much as possible from daily tasks and concentrated on dhikir, praising Allah and asking for forgiveness. Consequently, as in the Prophet's example, this month is a period of purification and spiritual renewal for all Muslims.
Undoubtedly, the most obvious feature of Ramadan is fasting. In the Quran fasting is referred to as a form of worship incumbent on everyone throughout human history, and it emphasizes that we are responsible for fasting just as were those before us. As the Quran indicates, this form of worship, fasting, can be found in human communities in almost every period of human history. Fasting can be found in many religious traditions even if they have a make-up far removed from Islam's belief in unity. For example, in Maniheism there is a one-month fasting ritual similar to Ramadan in Islam. In Judaism and Christianity fasting periods are spread out in different months of the year. In the Sabii religion and similar religions there are various traditions related to fasting. In these religions, sometimes fasting is like in Islam and sometimes it is only in the form of a diet. However, it is noteworthy that none of these is fasting just as it is described in the Quran and Prophet Muhammad's sunnah (practices of the Prophet). For as the Prophet indicated, fasting is not just refraining from food, drink and sexual relations for a particular period of time; it is a full purification of behavior and thoughts and remembering Allah. The way to remember Allah is to be familiar with Allah's commands, the Quran, and Quranic teaching. Fasting is a period when we better understand and implement these in our lives. The Quran reminds us of the real meaning and value of fasting, which was mandatory for those before us, but which lost its meaning when people strayed from unity. Prophet Muhammad gives us an example of this with his sunnah. Consequently, what is important in Ramadan is to be able to understand this message of the Quran and the Prophet's example.