Muslims around the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan, a period of dawn-to-dusk fasting, caring for others, and prayer.
The month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, began April 2 in some parts of the world and a day later in other regions. Ramadan begins with the sighting of the crescent moon—usually one night after the new moon.
It was during the last 10 nights of Ramadan that the first verses of Islam’s holiest book, the Quran, were revealed to Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel more than 1,400 years ago.
Ramadan lasts for 29 or 30 days, and both its beginning and end depend on the sighting of the crescent moon. Able-bodied Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset throughout the holy month. Observant Muslims endeavor to offer additional prayers—beyond the faith’s obligatory five daily prayers—and to recite the entire Quran.
For many Muslims, the opportunity to congregate in an atmosphere free from the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions of the past two years is joyous. The pandemic “has touched home in many ways,” said Makram Nu’man El-Amin, an imam in Minneapolis, in a National Public Radio interview. “So just the idea of being able to come back together during this special month—the month of fasting, the month of reflection, the month of self-development and all of it, the month of being charitable—all the things that we love to do, desire to do, we’ll be able to do, at least in a greater measure than we have been over the past couple of years.”
As a new moon was sighted in the skies over the United Arab Emirates on April 2, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president, prime minister and ruler of Dubai, congratulated the world’s Muslims in a Twitter message.
He officially launched the UAE’s “One Billion Meals” campaign, a global initiative aimed at feeding the poor and hungry in 50 countries. “Ramadan is a holy month where we promote empathy and solidarity with the needy people,” he wrote on Twitter.
A decrease in COVID-19 infections in Indonesia allowed the faithful, wearing masks and using check-in apps, to offer mass prayers known as the Tarawih (or Taraweeh) at the grand mosque for the first time since the pandemic began. Muslims gathered for these prayers typically spill out from mosque compounds into surrounding streets.
In Malaysia, another Muslim-majority country where Ramadan began April 3, moon sightings were held at 29 locations nationwide and Malaysians began fasting at dawn on April 4.
In India, a Hindu-majority country that is home to the world’s second-largest Muslim population, thousands of Muslims gathered on the evening of April 4 at the Jama Masjid, a 17th-century mosque built by more than 5,000 workers in Delhi over a decade. They sat under open skies on a vast sandstone veranda as an imam issued a call to prayer, marking the time for “Iftar,” the breaking of the Ramadan fast.
The word Islam means submission in Arabic. Fasting, sawm in Arabic, is one of the ways Muslims submit to God during Ramadan. Fasting at Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, which also includes shahadah (declaration of faith), salah (daily prayer), zakat (charity) and hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s holiest site.
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