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Palestinian women stand in front of a window decoration of Islam’s crescent moon and a five branches star on the eve of Islam’s holy fasting month of Ramadan in the West Bank city of Jenin on July 31, 2011.
This year, Ramadan begins Monday, August 1st.
As it is tied to the lunar calendar, the dates for Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, vary from year to year.
According to Fatimah Goodwin at the Islamic Center in Washington, DC, Ramadan begins at “based on the first sighting of the new moon The month will then last for 29 or 30 days, again depending on the lunar cycle, and will end on August 29 or August 30 this year.”
A Muslim man read the Quran, Islam’s holy book, on the first day of Ramadan at the Grand Mosque in the old city of Sanaa, Yemen, Monday Aug. 1, 2011.
Ramadan’s origins stem from the belief that “during this month, the Koran was revealed to the prophet Mohammad,” says Goodwin. In commemoration of this defining event, the entire month of Ramadan is recognized as being a holy time in the calendar, and one for fasting and prayer.
As mandated within Koran, Chapter 2, verses 183-185, adult Muslims are to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse during daytime hours. “Fasting like this is prescribed so that you might focus on restraint, Goodwin says. “It is intended so that you can purify yourself and use it as a time for self-reflection and contemplation.”
Two Chinese Hui Muslim girl read the Quran, Islam’s holy book, at the Niujie Mosque as they wait for their fast on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Beijing, China, Monday, Aug. 1, 2011
During Ramadan, fasting begins everyday at “fajr,” the dawn prayer, often about two hours before sunrise, and lasts until the evening prayer of “magrib.” The exact timing of each of these prayers varies from day-to-day, but a complete list of prayer times listing can be found on the Islamic Center’s website.
A Jordanian Muslim cleric looks through a telescope to observe the moon in order to determine the start date for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Amman, Jordan, Saturday July 30, 2011. Clerics announced that Monday Aug. 1 will be the first day of Ramadan.
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AltMuslimah: Ramadan etiquette guide