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.
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...