By Sadef Ali Kully
The Islamic holy month Ramadan, where Muslims all over the world fast from sunrise to sundown, began Thursday in accordance with the Islamic lunar year calendar.
Ramadan is one of the five basic pillars in the Islamic creed and one of the most important rituals in the fourth-largest monotheistic religion of the world. Muslims, from all walks of life, come together to fast from eating and drinking anything from sunrise to sundown for about 30 days.
In New York City, there are an estimated 800,000 Muslims and almost 29 percent of those Muslims live in Queens, according to the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
The world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35 percent in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, according to 2011 population projections by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.
It is the most important month because during Ramadan the Islamic holy book, the Quran, was revealed to the people. For Muslims, the practices of Ramadan are about abstaining from material desires by remembering those who do not have enough to eat and practicing self-control over anger, cursing, or greed, for example.
Before sunrise many Muslims have Suhur, or a predawn meal, and at sunset families and friends gather for Iftar, which is the meal eaten to break the fast.
For those who might be curious, non-Muslims are free to participate in Ramadan by fasting and even praying with their Muslim friends or family members. They are often invited to attend Iftar dinners.
A common greeting used during the holy Islamic month is Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem, which means have a blessed or generous Ramadan.
For most Muslims Ramadan fasting is mandatory, but there are exceptions. Pregnant or breast-feeding mothers, travelers or those who put themselves at health risk by fasting should not be fasting. Children that have not reached puberty are exempt from the mandatory fast.
The end of Ramadan is followed by the Islamic holiday, Eid ul-Fitr, which takes place either 29 or 30 days after the beginning of the month. On Eid ul-Fitr, after morning prayers family and friends celebrate with feasts.
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