Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins on 15th

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At the first sighting of the crescent moon next Tuesday, Muslims throughout the world will begin a month-long daytime fast to mark the holy month of Ramadan.

According to tradition, fasting during the ninth month began in the seventh century during the second year the original Muslim community was exiled from Mecca and living in Medina. The fast commences on the first day of the ninth month at the first sighting of the crescent moon and continues for 29 or 30 days. It is obligatory, or fard, for all who are able. Those who are ill, traveling, pregnant, menstruating or elderly may be excused, although many devout Muslims who meet these requirements for exemption keep the fast anyway. Those who choose to be excused are expected to make up the fast at a later time.

During Ramadan, Muslims are not only enjoined to refrain from food during daylight hours, but also from bad language, anger and sex. In addition, believers seek to increase their devotional exercises, such as praying, reading the Quran or giving alms. The fast is one of the Five Pillars of Sunni Islam or the 10 Practices of Shia Islam. The fast, or sawm, is

also the fifth of the seven pillars of Is-maili Islam.

Each morning, families or groups of worshipers gather for the predawn meal, called suhur. This marks the last intake of food or beverages until moonrise in the evening. In modern-day practice, the evening meal, or iftar, can sometimes be quite elaborate, but many Muslims prefer smaller, simpler meals.

Fasting is, of course, a widespread practice among world religions. Christians and Jews have official periods

of fasting, and fasting was also part of

the religious tradition of pre-Islamic

Arabia.

The fast is prescribed in the second chapter, or Shura, of the Quran, in

verses 183-85.

For local times and schedules, contact Masjid Hamza at 202 Stuart Avenue in Valley Stream by telephone at (516) 285-8585, or online at www.masjidhamza.com.