Month of Ramadan fasting for many Muslims begins Monday
DUBAI - Muslims in much of the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Algeria, as well as in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, will fast on Monday for the start of the month of Ramadan.
Millions more, however, in India, Pakistan and Iran, will likely be marking the start of the lunar month on Tuesday based on moon sightings there.
Muslims follow a lunar calendar, and a moon-sighting methodology can lead to different countries declaring the start of Ramadan a day or two apart. Traditionally, countries announce if their moon-sighting council spots the Ramadan crescent the evening before fasting begins.
Across the world, Muslims fast each day for the entire month of Ramadan, abstaining from food, drink and smoking from dawn to dusk. That means around 15 hours without food, water, cigarettes or caffeine.
Fasting is aimed at drawing worshippers closer to God through self-control, remembrance and humility. The challenge of fasting for many is also a chance to develop empathy for the hungry and poor and to reset spiritually and physically, kick bad habits and purify the heart.
During the day, Muslims must also abstain from sex, gossip and cursing, and are encouraged to focus on meditative acts like prayer, reading the Quran and charity.
The Ramadan fast begins with a pre-dawn meal called "suhoor" to prepare for the long day ahead. At sunset, when it's time to mark the end of the daylong fast, families and friends gather for an evening meal known as "iftar."
Those exempt from fasting include children, the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant or nursing, and people travelling long distances.