Muslims start observance of Ramadan

Muslims in Charlotte and in the rest of the United States began observing the month of Ramadan at sunset Sunday.

The holiest month on the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is a time for fasting and repentance.

Observing the fast – from food, drink and sex during daylight – is one of the five pillars, or devotional acts, required of all Muslims.

The origins of Ramadan can be traced to the prophet Mohammad, who, Muslims believe, was first visited by the angel Gabriel in caves outside Mecca on the 27th day of Ramadan in the year 610 A.D. Those visits continued for more than two decades and resulted in the Quran, which Muslims believe is filled with revelations from God.

This year, probably around Oct. 1, Muslims will end Ramadan by celebrating Eid al-Fitr, “the Feast of Breaking the Fast.”

At sunset each day until then, Muslims will gather – in homes or at mosques – to break the fast with large meals, beginning with the eating of dates.

The nine or so masjids, or mosques, in the Charlotte area will sponsor nightly meals and prayers, said Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte on Progress Lane.

On Sept. 20, the Islamic Center of Charlotte South, 559 N. Polk St. in Pineville, will hold a “Sharing Ramadan” open house. People of all faiths are invited. Details: 704-258-0304.

Because Islam follows a lunar calendar, Ramadan starts on different days every year. Its start is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon, indicating the beginning of a new lunar month.