NIGERIAN Muslims join
millions around the world to
mark the start of the holy month
of Ramadan today, a time marked
by intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk
fasting and nightly feasts. At
press time last night, Muslims in
the country were still awaiting
official confirmation from the
Sultan of Sokoto on the sighting
of the moon that would signal
the start of the fast.
But according to AP, Saudi
Arabia’s state Television
announced the new moon
of Ramadan was spotted
Sunday evening. Local media
in Indonesia, the world’s most
populous Muslim country, also
said Muslims there would begin
fasting Monday, as will Muslims
in Singapore, Yemen, Lebanon,
Syria, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan,
Egypt, the United Arab Emirates,
Afghanistan and the Palestinian
territories, among others.
Following these
announcements, a mosque in
Tampa, Florida announced to its
followers that they too would
celebrate the first day’s fasting
Muslims follow a lunar
calendar and a moon-sighting
methodology that can lead to
different countries declaring
the start of Ramadan a day or
two apart. By Sunday evening,
Pakistan and Iran had yet to
officially announce Monday
as the first day of Ramadan.
Traditionally, countries
announce if their moon-sighting
council spots the Ramadan
crescent the evening before
fasting begins.
The faithful spend the month
of Ramadan in mosques for
evening prayers known as
“taraweeh,” while free time
during the day is often spent
reading the Quran and listening
to religious lectures.
Each day for the month of
Ramadan, Muslims abstain
from eating and drinking from
sunrise to sunset. Even a sip
of water, coffee or a cigarette
can invalidate one’s fast. There
are exceptions to fasting for
children, the elderly, the sick,
women who are pregnant,
nursing or menstruating, and
people travelling.
Many break their fast as the
Prophet Muhammad did around
1,400 years ago, with a sip of
water and some dates at sunset
followed by prayer. It is common
for Muslims to break their fast
with family and friends and
charities organize free meals for
the public at mosques and other
public spaces.
The fast is intended to bring
the faithful closer to God and to
remind them of the suffering of
those less fortunate.
Fasting during Ramadan is one
of the five pillars of Islam, along
with the Muslim declaration of
faith, daily prayer, charity and
performing the hajj pilgrimage
in Mecca. Non-Muslims or adult
Muslims not observing the fast
who eat in public during the day
in Ramadan can be fined or even
jailed in some Middle Eastern
countries, such as Saudi Arabia
and the United Arab Emirates,
which is home to large Western
expatriate populations in Dubai
and Abu Dhabi.
Muslims celebrate the end
of Ramadan with a three-day
holiday called Eid al-Fitr.