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Manila Bulletin
August 10, 2010, 4:51pm

The fasting month of Ramadan for our Muslim brethren starts today (Wednesday) with the combination of physical sightings of the moon and astronomical calculations. Ramadan is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives.

During the Fast of Ramadan, strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day, the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. In the evening following the iftar, it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends.

During the month, the faithful are instructed that the good that comes out of fasting is nullified by acts that include telling of a lie, slander, denouncing someone behind his back, a false oath, and greed or covetousness.

As the third “pillar” or religious obligation of Islam, fasting during the month of Ramadan has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it means divorcing one’s self from worldly pleasures.

As the Islamic faithful deprive themselves of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, they become ascendant over all that is temporal in this world and come to know how it is to commune with God. For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur’an, giving charity, purifying one’s behavior, and doing good deeds.

Fasting during Ramadan enables the faithful to develop a much more profound understanding of those who are deprived, those who experience hunger, the less fortunate. They then learn to be even more thankful and appreciative for all God’s bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence. Given all these, fasting is widely practiced volitionally by Muslims in the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

The observance by Muslims of the month ends with the celebration of Eid ul Fitr when the fast is broken.