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RAMADAN

More than one billion Muslims throughout the world celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. It is the month during which the holy Quran was revealed, providing guidance for people through its tenets. Due to the use of the lunar calendar Ramadan falls 11 days earlier every year. Ramadan entails fasting from sunrise to sunset, and also praying. Observance of the month of Ramadan constitutes one of the five obligations in Islam. It aims to teach one self-control and also provides an insight into the plight of the poor.

As one of the "Five Pillars" of Islam, it is a way of celebrating one's unity with, and belief in, God and the teachings and precepts of the Prophet Mohammed.

The iftar meal is the culmination of a day of fasting, a tradition which began when the Prophet Mohammed went from Mecca to Medina. After the sun sets, one eats a meal and drinks nonalcoholic beverages. Special dishes are prepared for the 'iftar meal'.

The infirm and tourists are exempt from fasting. If these situations continue during Ramadan a Muslim can compensate for this by providing a meal for a poor person between sunset and sunrise during the month. If the person recovers or the journey ends before the end of Ramadan, one can add fasting days after the end of Ramadan to make up for the days lost.

Muslims are also obliged to give alms. The rich are expected to donate a certain amount of money based on their wealth, after their basic needs are met. This money is given before the first prayer service on the first day of the three-day Ramadan Holiday that marks the culmination of the month of fasting.

The three-day Ramadan holiday is a special time for all. Everyone wears their best and newest clothes bought especially for the occasion. Then, it is time to go to the mosque, visit relatives and friends, and entertain visitors. These visits provide an opportunity for those not on speaking terms to patch up their differences. It is a time to enjoy the company of one another and the good fortune God has bestowed upon us.

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