Ten things about Ramadan
1. In the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, devotees fast between sunrise and sunset. Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an is believed to have been dictated to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.
2. This year, Ramadan began on Friday July 20 in South Africa and ends at sunset on Saturday August 18, depending on the appearance of the new moon.
3. "Fasting for Muslims means abstaining from all food and beverages, including gum and water, as well as medication and smoking, from dawn to sunset," wrote DrNour al-Zibdeh in Today's Dietitian. "The two main meals of the day are suhur (immediately before dawn) and iftar (immediately after sunset)." She added: "While weight loss is certainly not the driving power behind fasting, it is not uncommon for some to take advantage of it to shed a few pounds."
4. A meal of dates and water was the prophet Muhammad's choice or sunnat (practice) to break the fast at sunset.
5. Taraweeh is a special prayer during Ramadan, in addition to the five daily prayers. It is prayed in the evenings and one chapter of the Qur'an is read each night so the entire 30-chapter Qur'an is covered during Ramadan.
6. One website offers a Ramadan countdown widget that you can add to your Facebook page.
7. The New York Times reports that, during this Ramadan, religious tension burst into a riot in a village in eastern Turkey, where there are substantial communities of the minority Alevi sect among the mainstream Sunni Muslim majority. Alevis are not as strict as orthodox Sunnis about the five pillars of Islam, of which fasting in this holy month is one. The riot began when an Alevi family objected to the drummer who went through the village before dawn to wake fasting villagers so they could have a quick meal before sunrise.
8. Laylat al-Qadr is the Night of Power, one of the last 10 odd-numbered days of Ramadan. Many Muslims choose to spend this entire night in prayer.
9. The Yom Kippur War that took place when Egypt, Syria and their allies invaded Israel in 1973 is also known in the Arab world as the Ramadan War, because it began on the 10th day of that month (October 6 1973). Planned by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat for years beforehand, the attack was code-named "Operation Badr". Badr is Arabic for "full moon". Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar.
10. Pakistan's 44 Pizza Hut restaurants withdrew an all-you-can-eat offer to customers for iftar. "The former all-you-can-eat format served as an unrestrained invitation to gluttony and waste, colliding with the very spirit of Ramadan," said a spokesperson. The offer is now one pizza and bottomless Pepsi.