Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, starts today, July 9 and will last until the 7th of August. It is, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and was recognized as a holy month after the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 A.C. during the Laylat al-Qadr, and can be translated as the “Dark Hours of Power”. Ramadan is similar to the Jewish Yom Kippur in that both constitute a period of atonement;  Ramadan, however, is seen more as an obedient response to a command from God.

The observance of the fast, called Sawm, which begins at dawn and ends at sunset, requires its followers (those who are able) to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse. In general it means to purge one’s self of thoughts and actions which are not pure as ” Islam”.  About 9 to 10 million Muslims in the Philippines are expected to observe Ramadan.

Non-muslims in muslim areas during Ramadan must be careful not to eat, drink, or smoke in the presence of muslims during the daytime hours of fasting. The traditional greeting during Ramadan is “Ramadan Mubarak” (“May God give you a blessed month”) and the reply is “Ramadan Karim” (“May God give you a generous month”).

In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran. Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Quran by means of special prayers, called Tarawih. These voluntary prayers are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Quran (Juz’, which is 1/30 of the Quran) is recited.

As a month of prayer it will be also an occasion in the Philippines to pray for the reconciliation among the different people and religions in the southern part of the archipelago.