May 16 marks the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, month during which Muslims all around the world fast from dawn to dusk. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a month of worship, patience, and sacrifice.

But while the general perception people have about Ramadan is all about ravaging hunger and unquenchable thirst, there's much more to it than a physical strain of a few hours. Ramadan is a symbol -- a representation of the purpose humanity is here to serve. And central to the "fast" in Ramadan is the idea of sacrifice.

Ramadan is a month of reflection. In the Holy Quran, it is mentioned: "Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness." During this month, the entirety of the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, the seal of the Prophets in Islam. Muslims revive the spirit of the Quran and its teachings throughout this month, participating in recitation and deep understanding of the chapters and verses which serve as a guiding light for one's life.

In chapter two, verse 185 of the Quran, the emphasis on the pathway of truth vs. falsehood is highlighted in light of this holy book: "The month of Ramadan (is the month) in which the Qur’an has been sent down as guidance for mankind containing clear signs which lead (to the straight road) and distinguishing (the truth from falsehood)."

Why the fast then?

Ramadan is a month of spirituality. It's about focusing on doing good deeds and reflecting on one's actions. And a part of this journey of self-reflection is distance from worldly indulgences that form the physical dimension of a human's life. Eating is just one of the things Muslims refrain from during this month. In fact, the fast itself is not so much about hunger as it is about connecting to God on a spiritual level. It's about refraining from all that which distracts you from self-reflection and supplication.

In Ramadan, Muslims engage in Quranic recitation, group supplications, humanitarian involvement, and community participation. As the day comes to an end and Muslims prepare to break the fast, the community reaches the peak of its vibrancy and unity. Muslims pray congregational prayers together and join one another for Iftaar, the meal to break the fast.

Ramadan is a month of unity. Muslims from all around the world unite to honor a special month full of blessings and mercy. As people fast during the day, they have the chance to focus more on doing good deeds and helping those in need. The spirit of doing good and staying away from the bad forms the foundation of the fast in Ramadan.

Welcome to the month of blessings, mercy, and unity.