For more than one billion Muslims the holy fasting month of Ramadan has begun. Muslims observe the month by renewing their dedication to caring for the poor and strengthening family ties.
This year many Muslims say they are entering the month of Ramadan with deep concern about world events and a sense of growing anti-Muslim sentiment as a result of terrorist acts committed by militants. At a mosque in Cairo worshippers were urged to condemn those who would engage in acts of violence in the name of Islam.
Some Muslims said they looked forward to the month of fasting hoping it will provide a period of deep reflection and peace.
Ramadan is the month when devout Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking or having sex during daylight hours. Instead they focus on charitable acts and good deeds.
Ramadan is celebrated in the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is a time when the ties of brotherhood and family togetherness are strengthened. The month also marks the revelation of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.
The start and the end of the holy month depend on the sighting of the new moon. Consequently, while Muslims in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon began celebrating Ramadan Wednesday morning the 135 million Muslims living in India will have to wait until Thursday. Local Muslim authorities in New Delhi said they did not see the new moon Tuesday evening.
And while the daylight hours of Ramadan are set aside for prayer and fasting, once the sun goes down the fast is broken with celebrations that often last until dawn.
In fact, while it is called the month of fasting, both men and women often complain the month of Ramadan actually causes them to gain a few extra kilos.