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Seeking the New Moon

By Kevin Robinson in News on Sep 14, 2007 4:59PM

Yesterday marked the first full day of the month of Ramadan the holiest of the four holy months in the Islamic Lunar calender. After the sighting of the new moon, all physically mature and healthy Muslims are obliged to abstain from food, drink, gum chewing and tobacco use, as well as sexual contact, between dawn and sunset. For many Muslims, this is a private time of year; a time to quiet the soul and open the heart for reflection and contemplation. It is also meant to be a time spent in community with each other, a time to come together as one people and share in the spiritual joy of the word of God revealed.

2007_9_ramadan.jpgFor many Muslims, this is a time of a deep spiritual significance as well, as the month of Ramadan is a time for reflection, prayer, doing good deeds and spending time with family and friends. Fasting is considered a spiritual exercise too, meant to direct the heart away from worldly desires and activities, and closer to the divine. It is used to teach the values of self-restraint, self-discipline and generosity, while reminding the devout of the suffering of those less fortunate, who may rarely get to eat well.

During Ramadan, it is common to have one meal before sunrise (the Suhoor), and another just after sundown (the Iftar). Fasts are broken with family, and because Ramadan places an emphasis on spending time with friends and family, the evening meal is often shared among several Muslim families that have come together for the evening. The Iftar commonly includes dates, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad. Additionally, Muslims are urged to read the entire Qur'an during the month of Ramadan, and its 114 chapters have been divided into 30 equal parts for this purpose.

Derived from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, meaning scorching heat or dryness, it is regarded in the Islamic world as the time during which God revealed the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad: "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint...Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting..."

Ramadan ends when the first crescent of the new moon has been officially sighted by a reliable source. At the beginning of Ramadan, it is good to wish Muslims "Ramadan Mubarak" which means "Blessed Ramadan."

Moon, Rise, via josephp