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Ramadan, the month of fasting, is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar. The fasting begins from dawn till dusk and during that time Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, sexual activity, and immoral

thoughts and actions, while immersing themselves in remembering Allah through prayers and reading the holy book, the Quran. Muslims believe that during this month, the doors to Heaven are opened while the doors to Hell are closed. Therefore, during Ramadan, Muslims strive for Allah’s forgiveness, practice self-restraint and be charitable.

Fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory for everyone. Children, elderly, ill, breastfeeding, pregnant and menstruating women, travelers on long journeys and people with health conditions that makes fasting impossible for them are all exempt from fasting.Children are encouraged to keep a short fast (for however long they can manage) if they wish to engage them in the concept of fasting.

Muslims follow a specific time to keep and open their fasts. They wake up before dawn for a meal called Suhoor before commencing their fast for the day. In the evening, they open their fast with a meal called Iftar, when the sun begins to set. Dates are one of the most popular food items to open the fast with. Preparing delicious dishes and drinks for Iftar is quite popular and many Muslims invite other guests over to their home for Iftar. It is a time to rejoice and be thankful to Allah for all His blessings.

Based on the sighting of the crescent moon or scientific determination of the phase of the moon (as is common in USA), Ramadancan last for twenty-nine or thirty days. Once the crescent moon is sighted, Ramadan ends and the next day is celebrated as Eid-ul-Fitr, the “Feast of Fast-Breaking,” which is one of the two important religious holidays of the Muslim calendar.

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Eid-ul-Fitr is the culmination of the month of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal, the tenth month of Islamic lunar calendar. It is a celebratory event that continues for three days in most Muslim countries.

Eid festivities are elaborate. Muslims wear new clothes, meet and greet family and friends and give charity on this day. The day starts with an Eid prayer, which is usually performed in a congregation in a mosque. Children receive special Eid money called Eidi to spend on this day. Muslims prepare lavish meals and sweets to celebrate this day.

Eid-ul-Adha also called the “Feast of Sacrifice” is another Eid, which is celebrated in the month of Dhul-Hajj. During this Eid, Muslims sacrifice a sheep, goat, bull or camel in remembrance of Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in an act of obedience to Allah. At the time of the sacrifice, however, a ram replaced Prophet Abraham’s son.

The sacrifice is, though, not obligatory on poor. The financially able Muslims distribute the meat from their sacrifice among relatives and the poor. Delicious meat dishes are prepared from the meat and shared with family and friends.

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Hajj is a pilgrimage to the house of Allah called Kaaba, a black cuboid structure in Mecca, undertaken by a Muslim who is physically and financially able to do so at least once in his or her life.

Hajj is performed in the twelfth month of Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims wear a special dress called Ihram during Hajj and follow specific rituals for five days. On the last three days of Hajj, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Adha. Muslims believe that when a Muslim performs Hajj all his previous sins are forgiven. Therefore, Hajj holds a venerated place among Muslims.

Upon return, Hajis (people who have performed Hajj) are welcomed with garlands and sweets. Hajis bring back ZamZam water, dates and prayer beads as gifts for family and friends.

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