The holiest month of the year begins Monday night for more than 20 percent of the world’s population.
Ramadan, a month of fasting practiced every year by Muslims, begins this week.
According to the Pew Charitable Trust, a non-partisan think tank, 1.6 billion people identify as Muslims worldwide and about 3.5 million of those are Americans. Many will celebrate this holiday, dedicated to renewal and cleanliness.
Islam follows a lunar calendar and look for the new crescent moon, called the hilal, to determine when fasting begins. If a new crescent moon is clear tonight, fasting will begin July 9 at dawn. If the crescent moon is not visible tonight and is clear tomorrow, the first full day of fasting will take place July 10.
Each day of Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink from dawn to sunset. The fasting ritual, called Sawm, also requires Muslims to abstain from smoking or sexual intercourse during the day.
Before dawn, Muslims share a meal called the Suhur and end the day of fasting with a meal called the Iftar. Ramadan continues for 29 or 30 days and concludes with the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, a day of morning prayers and feasting.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is the holiest month of the year. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Muslims practice Ramadan to purify themselves of thoughts and actions that go against Islam. Fasting is mandated in the Quranand all Muslims who have reached puberty should participate.
Although children are not required to fast, many practice fasting with their family. The Miami Herald profiled some of these children in an article last weekend.
In addition to fasting, Muslims read from the Quran and volunteer in the community during Ramadan. Individuals practicing Ramadan can find daily prayer times using the IslamiCity website.
Non-muslims are encouraged to participate in Ramadan with practicing Muslim friends by fasting or simply greeting them with Ramadan Mubarak (Have a Blessed Ramadan) or Ramadan Kareem (Have a Generous Ramadan).