[PHOTO -Indonesian Muslim student march during a gathering marking Ramadan in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, will officially start Friday, July 20, 2012 in Philippines if the moon is sighted on Thursday night by Islamic religious observers. Otherwise, it will start on Saturday. AP PHOTO/ACHMAD IBRAHIM]

COTABATO CITY, JULY 22, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Edwin Fernandez Inquirer Mindanao - Filipino Muslims throughout the country will start the month-long observance of Ramadan on Friday; that is, if the moon is sighted Thursday night by Islamic religious observers.

Uztads Esmael Ibrahim, chairman of the Ulama Council of the Philippines, said, however, that if the moon is not sighted on Thursday due to cloud cover or some such reason, then the holy month of daytime fasting for Muslims will officially start on Saturday.

“If the moon is seen tonight, fasting starts Friday, if not, then it will be on Saturday,” Ibrahim said.

[PHOTO -Muslims bow in prayer at the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila at the start of the holy month of Ramadan on Friday. Muslims all over the country will observe the 30-day period of fasting and prayers until August 18. Photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters]

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the so-called “five pillars” of the Islamic faith. The four others are belief in Allah, the giving of zakat (alms) to the poor, praying five times a day facing the direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia and, for the financially capable, going at least once in a lifetime to Mecca to perform the hajj, or pilgrimage.

Ustadz Jaafar Ali, head of the local Darul Iftah (House of Opinions), said fasting was prescribed by Prophet Mohammad to his followers as a means of inculcating in them the need for self-restraint to achieve harmony with all people regardless of faith and race.

“Self restraint would lead to spiritual perfection,” said Ibrahim, who also appealed to fellow Muslims to refrain from firing their guns to usher in Ramadan.

Traditionally, the start of fasting month is welcomed by some Filipino Muslims with gun fire, ostensibly to drive away bad spirits that could disrupt the religious activities. But Muslim religious leaders belie such claim, saying doing good and sharing one’s blessings with the less fortunate during Ramadan and the rest of the year would drive evil away.

“Religious leaders in different parts of ARMM will all together observe the skies on the night of July 19 to see if the new moon appears. This is in keeping with the tradition started by our ancient Islamic leaders in the Middle East,” Ali said.

Ibrahim, also a member of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said Ramadan is a “holy month” for Muslims when they fast from dawn to dusk for one lunar cycle, or about 30 days as a religious obligation.

Muslims still overwhelmed by nation’s biggest mosque By Jeoffrey Maitem Inquirer Mindanao 1:54 am | Saturday, July 21st, 2012 286 53

is still under construction (but almost done) and is located along the
mouth of the Tamontaka River draining towards the Moro Gulf in
Cotabato City. The construction is said to be funded by the government
of Brunei as a gift to the Filipino Muslims in the Philippines]

COTABATO CITY—No matter how often they come here for prayer, Muslims are still overwhelmed by the largest mosque in the country—a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.

The glittering Grand Mosque, also known as Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid (Muslim center of worship), is located in the seaside village of Inawan. It is a five-hectare cultural complex constructed and funded by the Brunei government in 2008, on land donated by the family of former Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen. It can accommodate 15,000 people.

The mosque, with gold-plated domes, is about eight kilometers away from the national highway. But the distance has not kept people from going there to pray, Grand Mosque executive director Ustads Norulam Abdullah told the Inquirer on the eve of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.

“Those who have no vehicles pay a P15 fare for the motorbike from the main road,” Abdullah said.

Cultural agreement

The construction of the mosque is covered by a cultural agreement between the Sultanate of Brunei and the Philippine government.

“At the back of the mosque, we are planning to build a grand function hall that can hold international activities,” he said.

Abdullah said the waterfront location is perfect, as the mosque can be viewed by those arriving by sea from the Moro Gulf in the east and those arriving by air through Awang Airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao.

Abdullah said the mosque was designed by architect Felino Palafox Jr.

It is equipped with closed circuit television and fire protection systems, with the design incorporating elements of Filipino, Asian and Islamic traditions.

The mosque was also constructed two meters from the ground. It can be accessed from three sides, with two front stairs, four side stairs and two pedestrian ramps.

Environmental concepts

Palafox, in an earlier interview, said he incorporated environmental concepts into the design, maximizing the sunlight for efficiency, reduction of electricity bills and low maintenance.

The mosque has four minarets (towers) rising 40 meters high.

Inside, there are two prayer rooms (for men and women) separated by an eight-meter-high partition. The prayer rooms are flanked by courtyards.

In their Friday prayer, Abdullah said Muslims emphasized the importance of the duration of the monthlong fasting, which starts today.

“We are praying for a peaceful Mindanao. We are happy that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government are talking peace,” he said.

[THE GOLDEN MOSQUE: Quiapo district in Manila, Largest mosque in Manila]

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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