Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and spiritual reflection for hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide, began July 9 in the United States.
At the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
just outside Washington, Muslim Americans from diverse backgrounds gathered to mark the start of the month-long observance, a time during which they will pray, fast from dawn to dusk, and reflect upon the true meaning of Islam.
Imam Johari, director of outreach at the mosque, says this is a time for Muslims to raise their consciousness about God.
"The basis of Ramadan,” he said, “is to get people closer to that connection by depriving themselves of food, from drink and from the feeding of their passions from dawn until sunset."
Men gather for prayer on the first day of Ramadan at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia. (VOA/J. Taboh)
For Carla Claure, 22, it's a time for deeper reflection.
"I practice obviously during the whole year but during Ramadan I become more reflective. I try to pray more; it centers me more," she said.
Junaid Khan, 21, believes this period can be life changing.
"They say it only takes one month to turn somebody's life around, so the month of Ramadan - the holy month of Ramadan - can influence somebody's character, and the way they live life, to [be] a better person."
Adam Dirbigi, 10, has fasted during Ramadan since he was six years old.
"People fast to feel how people who don't have food feel," he said.
After the sun sets, Muslims the world over will break that fast with a dinner, called "Iftar," which is often a shared communal experience with both Muslims as well as people of other faiths.
This year, Ramadan will end on August 7 with a meal and related festivities in a celebration called Eid.