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Muslims around world start Ramadan fasting

Saturday July 21, 2012 11:59:33 PM, & Agencies



Jeddah: Muslims around the world have begun fasting, as the holy month of Ramadan started in most countries yesterday while the rest of the countries observing the obligatory ritual from today.

Religious authorities in most Middle Eastern countries declared that Friday will be the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims in majority of African countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, Nigeria, Niger and Morocco, as well as Muslims of America began fasting on Friday. But Ramadan started in a number of Asian countries today.


Official statements issued on Thursday in countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, and Yemen, said the holy month will start the following day.


Syria's government said the holy month will begin Saturday - in contrast to the opposition Syrian National Council, which began observing the fasting Friday.


The sighting of the new moon marks the beginning of the Muslim lunar month that varies between 29 and 30 days. Some countries use astronomical calculations and observatories, while others rely on the naked eye alone, leading sometimes to different starting times in the Middle East.

On Thursday, Egypt's newly elected President Mohammad Mursi used the occasion to issue a pardon of 572 civilians sentenced in military tribunals, tackling a major demand of pro-democracy activists. But the pardon only affects a fraction of the thousands of civilians who have been tried and sentenced by military tribunals since a council of generals took over following Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February 2011.

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, fasting began Friday and Saturday. The Muhammadiyah group, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organization, told its 30 million followers that Ramadan starts Friday. The government, however, declared the official start as Saturday, when most of the remaining 190 million Indonesians began the dawn-to-dusk fast.


Pakistan's Central Committee for Crescent Sighting announced that Saturday is the first day of Ramadan. In Oman, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and most parts of India, fasting began today. Ramadan began Friday in Thailand but the somber occasion was marred by two bomb blasts that killed one person and injured seven. In India, most of the places began fast from Saturday. Some including Mumbai will begin fasting from Sunday.

In Malaysia, where nearly two-thirds of the population is Muslim, people began observing the holy month by heading to mosques Friday night on the eve of Ramadan's start. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak urged his country's Muslims to set aside their political differences during Ramadan and foster unity among believers.


In Brunei, an air force helicopter crashed late Friday, killing at least 10 people, mostly military cadets being flown home after training. The sultanate's Borneo Bulletin newspaper called it "a national tragedy" that struck a day before the country's Muslim majority marked the start of Ramadan.

Ramadan is considered the holiest month of the Islamic calendar as it commemorates Allah sending the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel) to the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) to convey to him the first verses of the Quran. Every Muslim who is past the age of puberty and mentally and physically fit and observes the month, must fast.


The fast starts from dawn and is indicated by the Al Fajr prayer (morning prayer). It ends at dusk and is marked by the Al Maghrib prayer (prayer at sunset). This daily fasting routine carries on every day for the entire month.

There are a few categories of people who do not have to fast. People with psychological problems (mentally unstable), children under the age of puberty, the elderly, the sick, travelers and pregnant women or nursing mothers are all exempt. Instead, they are required to feed at least one poor person a day or pay charity money that is equivalent to feeding one, for every fast they missed. Women on their monthly period are also exempt but must start fasting again once this is over. Although children are not obliged, many do observe the fast as an exercise.

Fasting is crucial during Ramadan as it is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam and was made obligatory in Ramadan in the second year of Al Hijra. Fasting is meant to humble oneself and increase moral discipline as well as serve as a reminder of the plight of those less fortunate who live in hunger and deprivation. It also has many health benefits as it helps the body to detoxify and speeds up the healing process as the energy usually used for digestion is diverted towards metabolism and the immune system.

Muslims try to spend more time praying, saying Dua’a (invocations), reciting the Quran and giving more to charity during the month, as the rewards of good deeds at this time are multiplied. During the month, Muslims aspire to become more pious, generous and good to others while exercising self-discipline. For this reason, Ramadan’s fast is more than just a food fast. Fasters should abstain from food, drinks and sexual activities during fasting hours.


Negative behavior such as lying or using foul or insulting language is forbidden in Islam in general, but is a graver sin in the days of Ramadan. Free Iftar tents are set up next to most mosques in the UAE and across the world, so that no one stays hungry when ending their fast.

Every Muslim is also required to give to charity a set amount of money called Zakat Al Fitr at the end of Ramadan. This money is meant to be used to help those less fortunate to buy new clothes and food so they can celebrate Eid. Ramadan is all about caring, sharing, family and getting closer to Allah.

Also unique to Ramadan, is the Taraweeh prayers. They are special night prayers held after the Isha prayer (night prayer). Another common ritual of Ramadan is reciting the Quran. In some countries, Ramadan is marked by colourful lanterns that decorate houses, streets and shopping centers. Many Muslims also flock to Makkah for the Ramadan Umrah.

The last ten days of Ramadan are very important to Muslims as they seek to observe Laylat Al Qadr (The Night of Power). Laylat Al Qadr is supposed to be the night when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad. Muslims devote more of their time for non-obligatory prayers, Dua’a and Quran recitals during those last ten days. After Ramadan ends, Muslims celebrate the three day festival of Eid Al Fitr, which literally translates into “The Festival of Breaking the Fast.”




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