Fasting and praying start tomorrow in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Lebanon. Other Mideast and North African countries are still waiting. Iran is waiting for Khamenei's announcement. Lebanon’s grand mufti expressed wishes of renewed peace and serenity. In the UAE, working hours are cut and advice given to drivers.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Muslims around the world are getting ready for the holy month of fasting and prayer, during which the faithful are called to refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk, as well as smoking, and sexual relations.
Saudi authorities announced that the month of Sha'baan ends today, Friday 26 May, with the first glimpse of the crescent moon on the first day of Ramadan tomorrow, Saturday 27 May.
The main Sunni religious authorities of Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed with their Saudi counterparts. Lebanon’s Sunni Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan on Thursday announced that Ramadan would begin on Saturday. “[W]e ask God Almighty to fill its days with security and serenity for all Muslims and Lebanese,” Daryan said.
During the month, Muslims can eat and drink before sunrise (suhur) and have their main meal (iftar) after sunset.
According to tradition, God revealed the Qurʾān to the Prophet Muhammad during the sacred period of fasting and abstinence, which ends on 25 June with the great celebration of ʻĪd al-Fiṭr and lavish banquets.
The period of fasting and praying starts with the sighting of the new moon, which varies from country to country. This explains why the start has already been announced in the UAE, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Muslim religious leaders in other Middle East and North African countries are still waiting. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has not yet spoken.
Fasting is one of the five pillars (duties) of Islam along with the pilgrimage to Makkah, praying, the declaration of faith, and charity. It was established on the second year of the Hjira (622 AD) when, according to tradition, Muhammad fled Makkah for Yathrib, renamed al-Madīnah an-Nabawīyah, (the city of the prophet), to escape the hostility of local tribes who saw him as a threat.
He established fasting to make his followers better in spirit and morals. Hence, Muslims perform acts of charity toward the poor and the sick. Everyone above puberty who is sound of mind and body must follow the precept.
Traditionally, fasting begins when a white thread can be distinguished from a black one. In villages and cities, this actually happens when the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer at dawn (al-faǧr). Fasting ends at sunset with the al-maġrib prayer, followed by the iftar meal.
People with psychological problems, pre-pubescent children, seniors, sick people, travellers and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or going through menstrual bleeding are exempt.
Those who do not fast still have to pray and perform an act of charity every day for the poor. Many parents have their children perform a partial fast of half a day.
In recent years, the sacred month has lost some of its holiness under the weight of business pressures, affecting national economies.
In the UAE, working hours have been cut to relieve the weight of fasting. The authorities have also warned drivers that fasting can cause irritability and loss of concentration behind the wheel. Drivers have been advised to avoid long trips, to travel with companions, and take more stops to rest.