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The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began on the evening of Friday, May 25, the majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims joining in the observance.

Muslims believe it was during this month that God revealed the first verses of the Quran, Islam’s sacred text, to Prophet Mohammed on a night known as “The Night of Power.” Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset for a time of spiritual discipline — deep contemplation of one’s relationship with God, extra prayer, increased charity and generosity and intense study of the Quran. It’s a time of celebration and joy, normally spent with loved ones. At the end of Ramadan, the faithful hold a three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr (“the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast)” that some say has similarities to Christmas in that it’s a religious holiday where everyone comes together for big meals with family and friends and exchanges presents.

During the month, Muslims abstain from eating any food, drinking any liquids, smoking cigarettes and engaging in any sexual activity from dawn to sunset. They’re also supposed to try to curb negative thoughts and emotions like jealousy and anger, and even lesser things like swearing, complaining, and gossiping, during the month. Some chose to refrain from or limit activities like listening to music and watching television, often in favor of listening to recitations of the Quran.

Muslims are not supposed to avoid work or school or any other normal duties during the day just because they are fasting. In many Muslim countries, however, businesses and schools either reduce their hours during the day or close entirely. For the most part, though, Muslims go about their daily business despite not being able to eat or drink anything the whole day.

If you want to express fond words to Muslim friends or acquaintances, you may simply say, “Happy Ramadan.” Those who want to show they know more about the religion can use the standard Ramadan greetings “Ramadan kareem” (“have a generous Ramadan”) or “Ramadan Mubarak” (“have a blessed Ramadan”).

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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