DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — May 16, 2018, 6:30 AM ET

Millions of Muslims prepare for start of fasting in Ramadan

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Last minute preparations are underway as Muslims around the world stocked up on groceries and dates Wednesday for evening meals to break dawn-to-dusk fasting during the month of Ramadan.

Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority nations, like Egypt and Indonesia, declared Ramadan would begin Thursday based on a moon-sighting methodology. 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.

Some mosques in the U.S. already declared the start of fasting Wednesday while others will begin Thursday. For those fasting in North America and Europe, Ramadan falls on especially long days this year, with Muslims in some cities not breaking their fast until after 8 p.m.

The Ramadan fast, in which food and even a sip of water is prohibited, is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and remind them of those less fortunate. It is also a chance to kick addictions like caffeine and cigarettes.

While fasting, Muslims must also abstain from sex, gossip and cursing. Muslims are encouraged to spend time in contemplation, prayer, reading the Quran and charity during the day.

Just as the sun begins to set, Muslims traditionally break their fast as the Prophet Muhammad did some 1,400 years ago, by eating sweet dates and drinking water, followed by a sunset prayer. At night, many fill mosques for evening prayers, known as "taraweeh."

Before dawn to prepare for the next day of fasting, families often wake in the night for a light meal known as "suhoor," eating fruits and vegetables, or a small dish with beans, lentils, bread or rice.

In many Middle Eastern countries, the wealthy help distribute free meals for the poor, with mosques and volunteers passing out juice and food to pedestrians and anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, in need of the aid or simply breaking their fast.

Fasting is considered obligatory in Islam, although there are exceptions for children, the elderly, the sick, those traveling and women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating.

Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr.

News - Millions of Muslims prepare for start of fasting in Ramadan

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  • Rubber Banned

    It's unfortunate that many do not abstain from exploding in crowded places during this reflective time.

  • Two Cents

    Millions of Muslims prepare for start of fasting in Ramadan

    Evidence of the past decades would indicate that they would be better advised to prepare for indiscriminate bombings, murders and many funerals.

  • weallhaveone

    Silly god rituals................

  • Blkhawksgrl

    and here we are to be sure to accommodate their religious beliefs... we do not send people to work sites due to the heat since they cannot or should not hydrate, employees are asked not to eat at their desk for breakfast, lunch or snacks and provide pray rooms
    BUT when we are allowed to decorate our offices for Christmas, someone had to take down the wrapping paper that covered their cubical because it said "Jesus" someone was offended and went to HR....

  • OldArmy81

    It's a pity most of them don't fast for the entire month - if they are worthy, A lla h will make certain they survive.

  • TexasVulcan

    Interesting factoid: Both Muslims and Jews use a lunar calendar. But since that does not synch up with the solar calendar (1 lunar month = 28 days), Muslim holidays migrate throughout the years. That's why Ramadan is never the same time of year.

    Jews established a "leap month" to reset the calendar every 6 years. Jewish holidays occur the same time of the year, but you vary by a month or slightly more each year before being reset.