The holiest month on the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims with daytime fasting and devotion, began Friday after the first sighting of the new moon’s crescent by observation teams around the world.

HISTORY: Ramadan is the month (on the lunar calendar) when the Prophet Mohammed (570-632) was said to have received the first revelations of the Koran, the holy scriptures of Islam. More importantly, the month of fasting is considered the fourth pillar of Islam. The other pillars, or basic obligations of the faith, are a confession of faith in one God and Mohammed as his prophet, prayers five times a day, almsgiving to the poor and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

CELEBRATIONS: Faithful Muslims are expected to neither eat nor drink between daybreak and dark during the 28-day month with exceptions made for the very young and old, the sick, pregnant women and others with physical problems. If necessary, the fasting time may be made up at another time or by contributing money to feed the poor. The hardship period brings together families and friends for evening dinners and Koran reading and prayer. Although allowances are made for sighting the moon’s crescent earlier, calculations indicate that the next lunar month will begin June 8. Muslims will gather together on that day, Eid el Fitr, for prayers and a daytime meal.