The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins at sundown today, as the faithful prepare for a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting intended to bring them closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate.
For the next 30 days, observant Muslims will refrain from eating or drinking anything — even the tiniest sip of water — from sunrise to sunset. Many will more strictly observe prayers, donate to charity and devote more time to reading the Quran as they seek to draw closer to God.
More than 1.8 billion Muslims, who account for around a quarter of the world’s population, are expected to observe Ramadan. Islam follows a lunar calendar, so the month begins a week and a half earlier each year, cycling through the seasons, including the long days of hot summers.
The start of the month depends on the sighting of the crescent moon by local religious authorities and astronomers, and can sometimes vary from country to country. But this year, there was broad agreement that it was beginning Wednesday evening, with Thursday declared as the first day of fasting.