The fast is intended to remind Muslims of the suffering of those less fortunate and bring believers closer to God (Allah, in Arabic).
During the month, Muslims also abstain from habits such as smoking, caffeine, sex, and gossip; this is seen as a way to both physically and spiritually purify oneself while practicing self-restraint.
Here’s what a day of fasting during Ramadan is like:
Muslims have a predawn meal called the “suhoor.”
Then, they fast all day until sunset.
At sunset, Muslims break their fast with a sip of water and some dates, the way they believe the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast more than a thousand years ago.
After sunset prayers, they gather at event halls, mosques or at home with family and friends in a large feast called “iftar."
How is the end of Ramadan celebrated?
Toward the end of the month, Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr or “the Night of Power/Destiny” — a day observers believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad to reveal the Quran’s first verses.
On this night, which falls on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, Muslims practice intense worship as they pray for answers and seek forgiveness for any sins.
To mark the end of Ramadan, determined by the sighting of the moon on the 29th, a 3-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr brings families and friends together in early morning prayers followed by picnics, feasts and fun.
Does every Muslim fast during Ramadan?
According to most interpreters of the Quran, children, the elderly, the ill, pregnant women, women who are nursing or menstruating, and travelers are exempt from fasting.
Some interpreters also consider intense hunger and thirst as well as compulsion (someone threatening another to do something) exceptions.
But as an entirety, whether Muslims fast or not often depends on their ethnicity and country.
Many Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, for example, observe the monthlong fast during Ramadan, according to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center.
In fact, in Saudi Arabia, Muslims and non-Muslims can be fined or jailed for eating in public during the day, according to the Associated Press.
But in the United States and in Europe, many Muslims are accepting of non-observers.