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The fast involves avoiding food during daylight. The opening days of the fast are often marked with community or family meals at sundown.
However, two more special days are observed in Ramadan.
Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Power or Decree, celebrates the Prophet Muhammad receiving the Quran through the angel Gabriel.
Muhammad never said specifically what day this happened, just that it happened in the last 10 days of Ramadan. This has come to be observed on the 27th of Ramadan, which starts at sundown.
It is also considered the Night of Destiny, a time when people’s fate is determined for the following year.
In 2013, Laylat al-Qadr, which has several alternate spellings, started at sundown Friday.
Because of this double significance, Muslims will try to stay up all night praying and reading Scripture.
Many of the prayers are asking God for mercy, forgiveness and salvation as well as blessings. It is thought that if a person prays through the night, one’s sins are forgiven and his or her requests will be granted.
Eid-al-Fitr, one of two major Islamic festivals, ends the fast.
For 2013, it starts Wednesday evening when the new moon is sighted, which means that people may not mark the observance on the same day.
Eid is an Arabic word that means festival or time of happiness. People thank Allah for giving help and strength to complete the fast.
The traditional greeting is “Id (or Eid) Mubarak,” which means “Happy Holiday.”
Others will use the greeting, “May Allah accept your prayers and fast of Ramadan.”
People are encouraged to forgive and make amends with others.
In Muslim countries, such as Jordan, the festival is a national holiday that can last three days.
The first day is spent at the mosque or at an area that can hold a large group. People then gather for family meals, the first daytime meal they have eaten in a month. Parties are held the second day, and gifts are given on the third day.
Special foods include dates and sweets made of milk, almonds and pistachios.
People often wear new clothes, decorate for the holiday and send cards.
The day is also known as the Festival of Charity, so money is given to the poor, often ahead of the day so that the recipients can prepare for the festivities.
In some areas, Eid-al-Fitr takes on the atmosphere of a street festival with carnival rides and games, balloons and kebab vendors.
Sources: www.timeanddate.com; Islam Today: A Short Introduction to the Muslim World, Akbar S. Ahmed; A Popular Dictionary of Islam, Ian Richard; NettonRamadan and Id al-Fitr, Dianne M. MacMillan; World Beliefs and Cultures: Islam, Sue Penney; Muslim Holidays, Faith Winchester; www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/; www.religioustolerance.org
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