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Ramadan: Fasting month begins, prayers and hardships for many

02. August 2011. | 07:29 07:33

Source: ANSAmed

The ninth month of the lunar Muslim calendar, Ramadan, begins today with observant Muslims refraining from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse between the hours of dawn and sunset.

The ninth month of the lunar Muslim calendar, Ramadan, begins today with observant Muslims refraining from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse between the hours of dawn and sunset.

This yearly period, which serves the purpose of purifying body and spirit, commemorates the time at which the first verses of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Mohamed.

The Ramadan month starting today (for Shiite Muslims it starts tomorrow) and which finishes on August 30 with the feast of Eid al-Fitr, comes to many Muslim majority countries at a time of great difficulty.

From the war which continues to lacerate Libya to the bloody repressions of Syria, and the famine affecting Somalia, for many of the world's Muslim faithful, (numbering 1.5 billion people across the globe), it will be particularly problematic to observe the holy month this year.

The most devastating situation must be that in Somalia, with the faithful unable to observe the precepts of Ramadan (which is the Arab word for 'hot month') as there will not be enough food to provide for the traditional fast-breaking evening meals.

In Syria tanks have been in action in the city of Hama, despite the start of Ramadan. While Monday has seen Ramadan beginning in Tripoli with a series of explosions caused by NATO raids on the Libyan capital city where a kind of normality appeared to have returned yesterday with many shops re-opening to cope with the storm of demand for last-minute shopping and long queues forming for bread supplies.

Ramadan does not stop in a war zone with the pro-regime forces and those of the PNT of Bengasi being 'authorised' to break with traditional usages when fighting on the front line. "It is truly horrible to fight against other Muslims during Ramadan," the government spokesperson, Moussa Ibrahim, said, "But Ramadan makes us stronger".

The United Nations Mission of Assistance in Afghanistan, UNAMA, has expressed the hope today that all sides involved in the conflict would respect "the sacred month of Ramadan" in order to ease the introduction of "stability calm, peace and the reconstruction of Afghanistan".

But elsewhere, as in Islam's most sacred city of Mecca, Muslims are able to celebrate the month of fasting undisturbed; the great mosque of Masjid al-Haram, which is largest religious building in the world and which contains the most sacred places of the creed, is broadcasting live prayers daily from the Maghrib to the Fajr - for all those who cannot attend the services in person.

And also in Mecca, at sunset yesterday, the start of Ramadan was signalled by bands of green and white light projected from the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, the world's highest bell tower.

In Tunisia, Ramadan is seeing clashes between the country's institutions: the country's Mufti, Othman Batikh, launched a TV appeal yesterday evening on the Al Wataniya 1 channel calling for bars and restaurants to remain closed for the month. But this position is in clear opposition to that of the country's Minister for Religious Affairs, Laroussi Mizouni, who points to Tunisia's tradition of tolerance and respect for the right of free choice for others.

But these others, as far as one can observe in the city of Tunis and its outskirts today - including tourist resorts - have followed the Mufti's request almost to the letter. But according to the General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Norway, Methab Asfar, this month "Will be a Ramadan marked by the victims and the families" of the recent massacre.

"The attacks have certainly left a mark," Mr Asfar said. According to official statistics, there are around 100,000 Muslims in Norway out of a total population of five million.


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01. August - 07. August 2011.