Hundreds of millions of Muslims in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Thailand marked the beginning of Ramadan with Tarawih prayers on Sunday night followed by daytime fasting that began Monday and will go until June 4, Islam’s Eid al-Fitr holiday.
Ramadan, tied to the lunar calendar, marks the ninth month in the Islamic year. The month commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.
Along with prayers and fasting, where they refrain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours, Muslims recite the Quran to draw closer to God and receive his promised rewards. At sunset each evening, worshipers break their fast with dates and other fruits before eating their meals.
In Malaysia, the announcement of Ramadan is made by the Keeper of the Ruler’s Seal after he receives a decree from the King who is the custodian of Islam in the country.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has the tradition of Nyekar where families visit the graves of loved ones ahead of Ramadan to offer prayers for God’s blessings.
“We have to keep these centuries-old traditions alive because no other countries have them. If not us, who else would,” housewife Marita Sari told BenarNews.
Ami Afriatni and Afriadi Hikmal in Jakarta, S. Mahfuz in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Mariyam Ahmad in Pattani, Thailand, Megh Monir in Dhaka, Nurdin Hasan in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Matahari Ismail in Narathiwat, Thailand, and Jeoffrey Maitem in Maguindanao, Philippines, contributed to this report.