Ramadan, the first day of the Islamic holy month of the same name, was observed across the world with a sighting of the crescent moon, in the west sky at sunset on Friday. The holy month, a period through which Muslims across the world are supposed to fast, began with traditional vows to refrain from eating and drinking, from dawn until sunset.

This is the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar and is considered the most sacred month, for it was when the Quran, the word of God, was revealed to Muhammad, his prophet. It is believed the practice of fasting, through this holy month, will bestow divine blessings upon each individual. The practice of charity and the reading of the entire Quran, during this month, are also encouraged.

Religious beliefs aside, Ramadan is also a way to practice spiritual awakening... by withdrawing from worldly pleasures. The act of refraining from food and physical relationships are meant to turn one's thought to acts of kindness, donations, prayer and helping others.


Iftar is a significant part of the month of Ramadan. It marks the breaking of the daily fast, at sunset. Traditionally the fast-breaking meal consists of one to three dates (the prophet Muhammad would follow this practice) and be followed by juices, salads and other sweet dishes.

Eid al-Fitr

Translated as The Festival of Fast-Breaking, Eid al-Fitr is probably the biggest and most joyous Islamic festival in the world. The actual day falls on the first day of Shawwal, the month that follows Ramadan. However, it also stands for a three-day festival that celebrates the end of a month-long fast and is marked by sumptuous banquets.

Incidentally, on the day before Eid, it is traditional that each family gives some amount of food to the poor, so that they too may have a holiday meal and participate in the celebrations.

Check out these photographs showing the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, as observed from around the world...

Worshippers offer their prayers during the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan before the opening ceremony of Mimar Sinan mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.REUTERS
Muslims attend Friday prayers on a rainy first day of Ramadan in east London.REUTERS
Muslims gather during the holy month of Ramadan at the Jama Masjid in Delhi.REUTERS
A vendor prepares Jallab and Rose, traditional Ramadan drinks, in preparation for Muslims breaking their fast at sundown in Sidon's Old City in southern Lebanon.REUTERS
Ramadan lanterns are displayed for sale at a shop ahead of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt.REUTERS
Worshippers attend their first Friday prayer for the holy month of Ramadan at Sultanahmet mosque, known as the Blue mosque, in Istanbul July 20, 2012.REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Palestinian women pray in front the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City on the first Friday of Ramadan.REUTERS
Muslims attend a mass prayer session "Tarawih" marking the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in mosque in Makassar of Indonesia's South Sulawesi province.REUTERS
Muslims attend mass prayer session "Tarawih" marking beginning of Ramadan at mosque in Makassar.REUTERS
A girl reads verses from Koran on the second day of the holy month of Ramadan in Kano, Nigeria.REUTERS
A man prepares special sweets to be eaten when breaking fast during the holy month of Ramadan in Kabul.REUTERS
Women break their fast at the end of the third day of Islam's holy month of Ramadan in the central Bosnian town of Zenica.REUTERS
Children look as volunteers prepare food for an Iftar meal for the needy during the holy month of Ramadan in Cairo.REUTERS
Afghan men leave a mosque after breaking their fast during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, in Kabul.REUTERS
Afghan men sit in front of a mosque as they wait to break their fast during Ramadan in Kabul.REUTERS
Afghan men leave a mosque after breaking their fast during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, in Kabul July 22, 2012.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani