Muslims are preparing for Ramadan, their holy month, which begins this Saturday.
The Fiqh Council of North America said the month will begin Saturday and run through Monday, July 28. During Ramadan, Muslims will fast and practice abstinence from dawn until sunset for 30 days. The annual event marks the anniversary of the Quran being revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the 12-month Islamic calendar, starting after the sighting of the new moon. The holy month starts at sunset, or “rukyah,” when the moon is spotted, and goes on until the next new moon appears.
The month of fasting, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is celebrated by more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, including in the U.S., where there are nearly 2.6 million Muslims, according to the Pew Research Center.
The purpose of Ramadan is to focus on spirituality, charity and prayer as well as withholding any acts of violence during the fast. All Muslims around the world are expected to participate, with the exception of the elderly, sick and pregnant.
In Saudi Arabia, the Interior Ministry threatened to deport non-Muslim foreigners who do not respect the month of fasting. The official statement urges anyone in the nation to "respect the sentiments of Muslims by not eating, drinking or smoking during Ramadan's daylight hours in public places, including roads and workplaces."
The typical greeting during Ramadan is "Ramadan Kareem" or "Ramadan Mubarak."
Muslims are expected to refrain from food and drink and abstain from smoking and sex each day during the month from dawn to dusk. The breaking of the fast, or iftar, begins at dusk by eating dates. Some Muslims have slightly different variations and have broader definitions of practices during Ramadan.
Ramadan commences annually with a celebration called Hilal, comprised of feasting and prayer. Ramadan ends with the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival, sometimes abbreviated as Eid, where many feast and join in Islamic prayer, known as salat, while saying "Allahu Akbar" or "God is Great.”