Muslims around the world are preparing for the commencement of the holy period of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month as per the Islamic dating system, i.e. the Hijri calendar.
The unified date of commencement is Monday May 6, 2019 given that the new moon was not sighted across the world. Unlike the Gregorian calendar where days of a month are fixed, the Hijri calendar depends on the sighting of the moon.
Each month ends with 29 or 30 days maximum. With an unsighted moon on the 29th (May 4), Muslims complete the preceding month of Sha'ban to 30 days (May 5) with Ramadan kicking off the next day without fail.
Ramadan is a period of one full month that the faithful undertake a dawn - dusk fasting which primarily entails abstinence from food, drink, marital intimacy and any such prohibitions as instructed by Allah (God).
Saudi Arabia employs the use of technology in looking out for the new moon. They are a reference point for many Muslims across the world in terms of starting the Ramadan is a period during which period the prophet Muhammad says the doors of hell are firmly sealed and the doors to heaven are wide open.
Islamic history has it that the Qur'an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan.
The fasting day starts with a pre-dawn meal called suhoor and ends with a meal called iftaar.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and is compulsory for all Muslims except those who are exempted - among others the terminally ill, travelers, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating.
Many pilgrims from around the world travel to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah for Umrah during Ramadan. Umrah is known as the lesser Hajj, a pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time of Muslims are encouraged to avoid gossip, arguments and fighting while they observe self-restraint, self-control and self-discipline during the month. They are also encouraged to engage in more charity work while they fast to bring them closer to God and remind them of the suffering of the less fortunate.
The common greetings during the month is "Ramadan Mubarak" and "Ramadan Kareem", wishing the recipient a "blessed" and generous Ramadan.
At the end of the 29 or 30 days of fasting, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr which literally means "festival of breaking the fast" in Arabic.
On the day, Muslims attend a special prayer in the morning at outdoor locations or mosques. The prayer consists of a sermon followed by the short congregational prayer.
After the prayer, they visit friends and relatives, give gifts especially to children, and make phone calls to distant relatives to exchange greetings of "Eid Mubarak" or "Blessed Eid".