Muslims Throng Mosques, Shops as Ramadan Begins

From Associated Press

Muslims throughout the Middle East thronged mosques and shops Friday on the first day of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting from sunrise to sunset.

Muslims shun food, drink and sex during the fast, which begins when the crescent of the new moon is sighted.

Although Muslims are expected to temper their eating at night as well, food consumption after dark reportedly triples in some parts of the region.


“This is feasting and not fasting, O Muslims,” complained Sheik Ibrahim Awad, prayer leader of the Manama al Fateh, or Conqueror, mosque in Bahrain. “You have to endure the fast and, when you break the fast, think of your hungry neighbors. Do not gorge.”

Ramadan, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is named after the 28-day month in the lunar Muslim calendar. Its start this year coincided with the Friday Sabbath.

Tens of thousands of Jordanians crowded mosques, and shoppers jammed downtown Amman to prepare for the special meal, called Iftar, that ends each day’s fast.

In Lebanon the long-silent powder cannon traditionally used to signal dawn and dusk boomed out for the first time since the 1975 outbreak of the 15-year Lebanese civil war.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency, monitored in Bahrain, distributed sermons by preachers at the Grand mosque in Mecca and the Prophet Mohammed mosque in Medina, which urged the faithful to piety and charity during Ramadan.

Revelry prevailed elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, with merchants selling Arab delicacies and minarets ringing with prayers. Veiled women shopped for nuts, sugar, rose water and other items, and sidewalks were festooned with colored lanterns and neon lights.


In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of worshipers crowded the Al Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest shrine in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Militants spoke out against the Israel-PLO agreement on Palestinian autonomy.

“This state of Israel will be crushed and Islam will win the holy fight against the Great Satan in Washington and its ally in Tel Aviv,” shouted an Islamic Jihad activist, calling on worshipers to wage holy war against the Jewish state.