Holy month of Ramadan begins
Muslims throughout the world are ready to welcome the holy month of Ramadan, which began on Sunday evening, May 5.
The tradition began in the seventh century and commemorates the month when the Prophet Mohammed retreated to a cave north of Mecca for spiritual contemplation.
Ramadan is believed to be a time of intense spirituality, when the believers are surrounded by angels, the gates of heaven are open, and Allah's blessings and mercy are abundant.
Fasting, held from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, is one of the Five Pillars [fundamental religious duties] of Islam. It is a time of self-examination and increased religious devotion. There is also a holy night called Laylat al-Qadr, which means 'Night of Power,' when the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad.
Over the 30 days, Muslims fast during the daylight hours, and the practice is seen as one of the five pillars of the faith. They can eat before sunrise and break their fast after dusk each day, and besides abstinence from food and water, Muslims are asked to abstain from sexual intercourse as well, the Mosque Foundation says. During the month, Muslims also strive to practice "zakat," or charity, another of the five pillars of Islam.
Children, pregnant women as well as the elderly and sick are exempt from fasting.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate breaking their fast with the three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr, on June 5 this year.