See how Muslims around the world ushered in their holiest month : The Picture Show : NPR

Istambul, Turkey: Muslim worshipers perform a night prayer called ‘tarawih’ during the eve of the first day of the Muslim fasting holy month of Ramadan at the Hagia Sophia mosque on Friday, April 1, 2022.

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Istambul, Turkey: Muslim worshipers perform a night prayer called ‘tarawih’ during the eve of the first day of the Muslim fasting holy month of Ramadan at the Hagia Sophia mosque on Friday, April 1, 2022.

Emrah Gurel/AP

Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, began this weekend for the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. From dawn to dusk, the able-bodied among them will fast, abstaining not only from food but also from a sip of water.

“[The pandemic] It has touched home in many, many ways,” Makram Nu’man El-Amin, an imam in Minneapolis, told NPR on Saturday.

“So just the thought of being able to get back together during this special month: the month of fasting, the month of reflection, the month of personal development and all that, the month of charity, etc. all the things that we love do, we want to do, we will be able to do, at least to a greater extent than we have in the last two years. So I’m excited. And I’m so grateful for this moment.”

Podgorica, Montenegro: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

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Podgorica, Montenegro: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

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Moscow, Russia: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at the Central Mosque.

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Moscow, Russia: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at the Central Mosque.

Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Gaza City, Gaza: This long exposure image shows Palestinians standing by the lantern known in Arabic as “Fanous Ramadan” on the first day of the start of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

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Gaza City, Gaza: This long exposure image shows Palestinians standing by the lantern known in Arabic as “Fanous Ramadan” on the first day of the start of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Mohamed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

Peshawar, Pakistan: A man tries on a traditional cap in preparation for Ramadan.

Muhammad Sayjad/AP


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Peshawar, Pakistan: A man tries on a traditional cap in preparation for Ramadan.

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While it is easy to think of Ramadan as a holiday, it is not. Muslims go to work and school and go about their daily lives.

In that sense, the true purpose of the month is discipline and dedication. Fasting extends to more than food. Muslims are expected to practice avoiding impure thoughts and actions.

Ramadan provides a constant physical reminder of God, as well as a reminder of all the people in the world who do not have enough food and water. “He creates a momentum of both gratitude and charity,” Adeel Zeb, a Muslim chaplain at The Claremont Colleges, said in a 2017 NPR interview.

New Delhi, India: Muslims offer Friday prayers at Jama Masjid before the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

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New Delhi, India: Muslims offer Friday prayers at Jama Masjid before the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

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Istambul, Turkey: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.

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Istambul, Turkey: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.

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The month focuses on charity, worship, and developing empathy and connection with others. But there is also a strong community aspect that is an essential part of the experience.

However, over the past two years, as a pandemic raged, the coronavirus eliminated many of those rituals. Gone are the large group dinners, visits to mosques, early morning runs to IHOP for pancakes before the fast begins, along with so many other beloved aspects of the month.

This year, many Muslims plan to resume evening gatherings, Iftar, where they can break their all-day fast together. Many also look forward to the communal Tarawih prayers that follow the breaking of the fast.

Moscow, Russia: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at the Central Mosque.

Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


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Moscow, Russia: Muslims perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan at the Central Mosque.

Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tangerang, Indonesia: Children bathe in the Cisadane River on the first night of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Tatan Syuflana/AP


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Tangerang, Indonesia: Children bathe in the Cisadane River on the first night of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

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Pristina, Kosovo: Muslims gather to perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

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Pristina, Kosovo: Muslims gather to perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

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That’s good news for fans like Rizwan Ali.

“Honestly, the worst part is just missing people,” Ali, the imam at the Islamic Center of Naperville, Illinois, told NPR in 2020. “I was saying that, you know, after I got ready for prayers, I was doing wudu [cleansing the body before prayers] at my place. And I was, like, you know, I never thought I’d miss the long lines at the mosque to do wudu and prepare for prayer. Well, those are the little things you miss: the smiles, the faces. I can close my eyes and tell you where each person is sitting. And I’m missing all those little experiences now.”

Hyderabad, Pakistan: Pakistani men make traditional sweets in a market to display for sale before Ramadan.

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Hyderabad, Pakistan: Pakistani men make traditional sweets in a market to display for sale before Ramadan.

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Ankara, Turkey: Muslims perform the first Tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

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Ankara, Turkey: Muslims perform the first Tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

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Ramadan is a month in which Muslims believe that God revealed the Koran, Islam’s holy text, to the Prophet Muhammad. It officially begins with the first sighting of the crescent after the new moon, leading different countries to declare its start a day or two apart. For most countries this year, it started on Friday night.

The month ends with Eid al-Fitr, a three-day celebration, a time to eat, drink and rejoice after a month of fasting and long nights of worship.

Washington DC: Muslims gather to perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

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Washington DC: Muslims gather to perform the first tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

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Jerusalem, Israel: A Palestinian man hangs decorative lights in preparation for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Mahmoud Illean/AP


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Jerusalem, Israel: A Palestinian man hangs decorative lights in preparation for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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