Muslims begin Ramadan

2012-07-21 08:34
A Palestinian during the dawn prayer on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in the West Bank city of Jenin. (Mohammed Ballas, AP), AP)

A Palestinian during the dawn prayer on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in the West Bank city of Jenin. (Mohammed Ballas, AP), AP) (Mohammed Ballas)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Jakarta - Muslims have begun fasting for the start of the Ramadan holy month in Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere around Asia, but the somber occasion was marred in Buddhist-dominated Thailand by two bomb blasts that killed one person and injured seven.

The Muhammadiyah group, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organisation, told its 30 million followers that Ramadan starts on Friday. The government, however, declared the official start as Saturday, when most of the remaining 190 million Indonesians began the dawn-to-dusk fast.

Muslims in Thailand also began Ramadan on Friday, while Malaysians began on Saturday. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were to start Saturday or Sunday.

The Muslim holy month devoted to dawn-to-dusk fasting, prayers and good deeds culminates with the three-day holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

Muslims believe God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan, which starts with the sighting of the new moon. The Muslim lunar calendar moves back through the seasons, so Ramadan starts 11 days earlier each year under the Western calendar.

The holy month started ominously in southern Thailand, the region where most Thai Muslims live and where an insurgency has claimed thousands of lives. The car bombing started fires at shops and residences and sent black smoke wafting from a row of four-story buildings in a commercial area of Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province.

Seven people were injured, including four who were briefly trapped on the roof of a burning building, said police Col. Maitree Chimcherd. He said Muslim insurgents hid the homemade bomb in a pickup truck parked in front of a computer store.

On Thursday night, a roadside bomb killed a villager and wounded his companion while they were hunting for squirrels in the woods in Yala province, said police Col. Wichai Jaengsakul.

Still, residents of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani provinces flocked to local markets Friday to shop for fresh and dried fruit including date palm to be consumed at dusk after the first day of fasting ends.

Quiet start

In Malaysia, where nearly two-thirds of the population is Muslim, people began observing the holy month by heading to mosques Friday night on the eve of Ramadan's start, with special Quran-reading and prayer sessions to proceed nightly throughout the month.

The start of Ramadan is often quiet in Malaysia, with excitement peaking in the final week, when people buy new clothes, food and other supplies to celebrate the end of the holy month.

Many hotels in Kuala Lumpur have begun advertising promotional dinners featuring roast lamb, savory curries and sumptuous cakes for more affluent Muslims to break their fast, while in numerous neighborhoods, entrepreneurs will set up evening stalls for customers to purchase cooked rice, meat and vegetables to bring home for their families.

Homemaker Karina Hassan said this Ramadan might be significant for her family because her 8-year-old daughter could try fasting for the first time. "She might try to fast for half a day at first," Karina said. "She's always hungry 24 hours a day, so fasting could be tough for her."

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak urged his country's Muslims to set aside their political differences during Ramadan and foster unity among believers. Political rhetoric and mudslinging has intensified in Malaysia over the past year ahead of national elections that must be held before mid-2013.

In Brunei, an air force helicopter crashed late Friday, killing at least 10 people, mostly military cadets being flown home after training. The sultanate's Borneo Bulletin newspaper called it "a national tragedy" that struck a day before the country's Muslim majority marked the start of Ramadan.

Ramadan's start varies because Muslim countries and groups use different ways of calculating when the new moon crescent is sighted.

Muhammadiyah, which uses calendar-based astronomical calculations, believed that the crescent should have appeared after sunset on Thursday. But the government argued it could not be seen by eyes or telescopes, hence Ramadan has to start Saturday.

Pakistan's government has promised there will not be any power blackouts during the key hours when people are preparing for their fast or during the evening when they pray and break their fasts.

"Allah gives you patience."

"If there is electricity or no electricity, people do fast, and they fast with patience," said Shah Mohammed, who sells nuts in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. "Allah gives you patience."

In Bangladesh too, Ramadan is likely to start Saturday. However, a national moon sighting committee headed by state minister for religious affairs was to sit Friday evening to make an official declaration.

Parts of India, where about 13% of the 1.2 billion people are Muslim, started on Saturday, including New Delhi and the Indian portion of Kashmir.

The largest Muslim rebel group in the predominantly Catholic Philippines said fasting there would begin on Saturday.

A cease-fire has curtailed fighting and fostered peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in recent years. Rebel spokesperson Von Al Haq said the guerrillas would observe Ramadan but still defend themselves if attacked.

The Philippine military traditionally orders troops to refrain from offensives that could disrupt Ramadan in the southern regions where minority Muslims live. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda released a statement expressing solidarity with and goodwill toward Filipino Muslims in the holy month.


Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
17 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.