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What you should know about Ramadan

There are about 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, as of 2015. That population is expected to be about 3 billion by 2060. There are about 3.3 million Muslims in the US.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year -- and the holy month of fasting. It is celebrated as the month in which the prophet Mohammed received the first of the revelations that make up the Quran.

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The month of Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new moon, but clerics in a particular nation may set the exact date.

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During the month, Muslims abstain from food, drink (including water) and sexual intercourse from dawn until dusk.

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Muslims are encouraged to eat a meal before dawn, and then break the fast right after sunset.

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The fast is traditionally broken by eating dates and drinking water first.

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The end of Ramadan, called Eid al-Fitr, is a day of feasting.

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The Ramadan fast is one of the five pillars, or basic institutions, of Islam:

  • Shahadah: Affirmation that there is no deity but God and Mohammed is his messenger
  • Salat: Praying five times daily
  • Zakat: Giving to charity
  • Sawm: Fasting during the month of Ramadan
  • Hajj: Making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime