DUBAI, United States ( Associated Press) — The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began at sunset on Wednesday as worshipers prepare to fast at sunset in an effort to draw closer to God and remember the suffering of those less fortunate.
For the next 30 days, Muslims will abstain from eating or drinking anything, or at least drinking water, from morning until evening. Many will observe prayers more strictly, give alms and spend more time reading the Qur’an in an effort to draw closer to God.
This year it will be difficult for many to afford a vacation due to high prices fueled in large part by the war in Ukraine. The holy month will also be overshadowed by those suffering in Turkey and Syria, where last month an earthquake killed more than 52,000 people, and in conflict zones in the Muslim world, although there have been encouraging signs of possible reconciliation.
More than 1.8 billion Muslims, representing nearly a quarter of the world’s population, are expected to observe Ramadan.
The island follows a lunar calendar, so the month starts about eight and a half years earlier each year, in all seasons, including long, hot summer days.
The beginning of the month depends on the sighting of the new moon by local religious authorities and astrologers, and can sometimes vary from country to country. But this year the agreement was spread that it began on Wednesday night and Thursday was declared the first day of fasting.
In Indonesia, home to the country’s largest Muslim community, worshipers flooded mosques for evening prayers after Muslim authorities said astronomical observation teams had spotted a new moon in different regions. It was during Ramadan, more than 1,400 years ago, that Muslims believed God revealed the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and is obligatory for all Muslims, although exceptions are made for children who are ill, and women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating. Pilgrims are also exempt.