(STAR) John Unson — “Fast when you see the new moon, break your fast when you see the new moon.”

This is exactly what Muslims across the country and elsewhere in the world will do starting tomorrow, the first day of the Islamic 30-day fasting season, as espoused by Islam’s progenitor, Mohammad.

Muslims, during the Ramadan, which lasts for one lunar cycle, abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn to dusk as a yearly religious obligation.

Fasting during the Ramadan is one of the so-called five pillars of the Islamic faith, which include belief in Allah; praying five times a day facing the west; giving of zakat (alms) to the needy; and, for those who can afford, performing the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan declared today a special non-working holiday in the ARMM to give the area’s Muslim communities enough time to celebrate the first day of Ramadan.

In separate statements, Ampatuan and Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, also an ethnic Maguindanaon Muslim, both appealed to their Muslim constituents to religiously observe the Ramadan, which is also a time for reflection on wrong deeds and reparation.

Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Hijrah calendar, which is based on astronomical calculations, indicates that Ramadan’s first day in the Hijrah year 1428, which is 2007 in the Gregorian calendar, falls on Sept. 13.

Muslims believe it was during the Ramadan when Allah, through Archangel Gabriel, called on Mohammad, a lowly shepherd, to propagate Islam.

The sick, the elderly, lactating mothers, menstruating women and children are exempted from fasting during the Ramadan.

“When we fast during the Ramadan, we also reach out to our poor neighbors and shake the hands of our adversaries and renew our friendship with them,” Ampatuan said in a Ramadan message faxed to different media outlets in Central Mindanao.

Sema said fasting employees of the city government will have to work before 8 a.m. from Monday to Friday without noon break so they can leave the office in the afternoon early for them to have enough time to prepare for the buka, or first meal at dusk.

Meanwhile, the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) yesterday declared that the holy month of Ramadan will officially start tomorrow.

Based on astronomical calculations and the lunar calendar, the crescent moon will appear tonight and pave the way for the month-long prayers and fasting, according to OMA administrative services director Ruben Guiling.

But the OMA official stressed it is a “mandatory practice” in Islam to look for and see the crescent moon “as confirmation of the beginning of the month of Ramadan.” – With Edu Punay

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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