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
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 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,
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
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.”